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Editor’s Introduction , pagtsa 

'Preface to the First Edition xxiii 

Preface to the Second Edition xxv 

Preface to the Third Edition xxvii 

Preface to the Fourth Edition xxviii 

Preface to the Fifth Edition xxix 

Preface to the Sixth Edition xxix 

Preface to the Eighth EcmoN xxxi 

Preface to the Third (Revised) English Edition xxxii 



(a) The Relation of Dreams to Waking Life 7 

(b) The Materifl of Dreams — Memory in Dreams 11 

(c) The Stiuiuii and Sourr<><! of Dreams 22 

(1; Tixternal Sen j oumuli ^ ' ?3 

(2) Internal (Subjectiv^.^Sensory Excit^Ions 30 

(3) Internal Organic Somatic Stimuli ' 33 

- (4) Psychical Sources of Stimulation 39 

(d) Why Dreams are Forgotten after Waking 43 

(e) The Distinguishing Psychological Characteristics 

of Dreams 48 

(f) The Moral Sense in Dre^s 66 

(g) Theories of Dreaming and its Function 75 

(h) The Relations between Dreams and Mental 

Diseases 88 

Postscript, 1909 93 

Postscript, 1914 -95 







A WISH 122 




(a) Recent and Indifferent Materied in Dreams 165 

(b) Infantile Material as a Source of Dreams 189 

fc) The Somatic Sources of Dreams 220 

(d) Typical Dreams 244 

fa) Embarrassing Dreams of Being Naked 242 
(^) Dreams of the Death of Persons of whom 
the Dreamer is Fond 248 

(y) Other Typical Dreams 271 

(6) Examination Dreams 273 


(a) The Work of Condensation 279 

(b) The Work of Displacement 303 

(c) The Means of Representation in Dreams 310' 

(d) Considerations of Representability 339 

(e) Representation by Symbols in Dreams — Some 

Further Typical Dreeims 350 

(f) Some Examples — Calculations and Speeches in 

Dreams 405 

(g) Absurd Dreams — Intellectual Activity in Dreams 426 

(h) Affects in Dreams 460 

(i) Secondary Revision 488 



(a) The Forgetting of Dreams 512 

(b) Regression 



(c) Wish-Fulfilment • page 550 

(d) Arousal by Dreams — The Function of Dreams — 

Anxiety-Dreams 573 

(e) The Primary and Secondary Processes — ^Repres- 
sion 588 

(f) The Unconscious and Consciousness — Reality 610 

APPENDIX A A Premonitory Dream Fulfilled 623 

APPENDIX B List of Writings by Freud dealing 

predominantly or largely with Dreams 626 


BIBLIOGRAPHY (a) List of Works Quoted and Author 

Index 629 

(b) List of Works on Dreams Published 

before 1900 650 

INDEX OF DREAMS (a) Freud’s Own Dreams 657 

(b) Other People’s Dreams 659 




Tite present edition is a reprint of that included in Vols. IV and V 
of the Standard Edition, London, 1953, (The Hogarth Press and 
The Institute of Psycho-Analysis). A few additional notes will be 
found on p. 628. The editor is deeply indebted to Miss Anna 
Freud for her unfailing help and criticism at every stage of the 

( 1 ) 

(fl) German Editions: 

1900 Die Traumdeutung. Leipzig and Vienna: Franz Deudcke. 
Pp. iv + 375. 

1909 2nd ed. (Enlarged and revised.) Same publishers. 

Pp. vi + 389. 

1911 3rd ed. (Enlarged and revised.) Same publishers. 

Pp. X + 418. 

1914 4th ed. (Enlarged and revised.) Same publishers. 

v^Pp. X + 498. 

1919 5th ed. (Enlarged and revised.) Same publishers. 

Pp. ix + 474. 

1921 6th ed.'l (Reprints of 5th ed. except for new preface 

1922 7th ed.J and revised bibliography.) Pp. vii + 478. 

1925 Vol. II and part of Vol. Ill of Freud, Gesammelte 
Sekriften. (Enlarged and revised.) Leipzig, Vienna and 
Zurich: Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag. 
Pp. 543 and 1-185. 

1930 8th ed. (Enlarged and revised.) Leipzig and Vienna: 
Franz Deuticke. Pp. x + 435. 

1942 In Double Volume II & III of Freud, Gesammelte 
Werke. (Reprint of 8th ed.) London; Imago Publish- 
ing Co. Pp. XV and 1-642. 

{b) English Translations: 

1913 By A. A.Brill. London: George Allen & Go.; New York: , 
The Macmillan Co. Pp; xiii + 510. 

1915 2nd ed. London: George Allen & Unwin; New York: 

The Macmillan Co. Pp. xiii + 510. 

1932 3rd ed. (Completely revised and largely reSyritten by. 
various unspecified hands.) London: George AJ^ija 
& Unwin; New York: The Macmillan Go. Pp.ji§O0^ 



1938 In The Basic Writings of Sigmund Freud. Pp. 181-549. 
(Reprint of 3rd ed. widi almost the whole of Chapter I 
omitted.) New York: Random House. 

The present, entirely new, translation is by James Strachey. 

Actually Die Traumdeutung made its first appearance in 1899. 
The fact is mentioned by Freud at the beginning of his second 
paper on Josef Popper (1932c): Tt was in the winter of 1899 
that my book on the interpretation of dreams (though its title- 
page was post-dated into the new century) at length lay before 
me.’ But we now have more precise information from his 
correspondence with Wilhelm Fliess (Freud, 1950fl). In his letter 
of November 5, 1899 (Letter 123), Freud announces that 
‘yesterday at length the book appeared’; and from the preced- 
ing letter it seems that Freud himself had received two advance 
copies about a fortnight earlier, one of which he had sent to 
Fliess as a birthday present. 

The Interpretation of Dreams was one of the two books — the 
Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905(/) was the other 
— which Freud kept more or less systematically ‘up to date’ as 
they passed through their series of editions. After the third 
edition of the present work, the changes in it were not indicated 
in any way; and this produced a somewhat confusing effect on 
the reader of the later editions, since the new material some- 
times implied a knowledge of modifications in Freud’s views 
dating from times long subsequent to the period at which the 
book was originally written. In an attempt to get over this 
difficulty, the editors of the first collected edition of Freud’s 
works (the Gesammelte Schriften) reprinted the first edition of 
The Interpretation of Dreams in its original form in one volume, 
and put into a second volume all the material that had been 
added subsequently. Unfortunately, however, the work was not 
carried out very systematically, for the additions themselves 
were not dated and thereby much of the advantage of the plan 
was sacrificed. In subsequent editions a return was made to the 
old, undifferentiated single volume. 

By far tire greater number of additions dealing with any 
single subject are those concerned with symbolism in dreams. 
Freud explains in his ‘History of the Psycho-Analytic A’lbve- 
ment’ (1914(i), as well as at the beginning of Chapter VI, 


Section E (p. 350), of the-present work, that he arrived late 
at a full realization of the importance of this side of the subject. 
In the first edition, the discussion of symbolism was limited to 
a few pages and a single specimen dream (giving instances of 
sexual symbolism) at the end of the Section on ‘Considera- 
tions of Represen tability’ in Chapter VI. In the second edition 
(1909), nothing was added to this Spction; but, on the other 
hand, several pages on sexual symbolism were inserted at the 
end of the Section on ‘Typical Dreams’ in Chapter V. These 
were very considerably expanded in the third edition (1911), 
while the original passage in Chapter VI still remained un- 
altered. A reorganization was evidently overdue, and in the 
fourth edition (1914) an entirely new Section on Symbolism 
was introduced into Chapter VI, and into this the material on 
the subject that had accumulated in Chapter V was now trans- 
planted, together with a quantity of entirely fresh material. No 
changes in the structure of the book were made in later editions, 
though much further matter was added. After the two-volume 
version (1925) — that is, in the eighth edition (1930) — some 
passages in the Section on ‘Typical Dreams’ in Chapter V, which 
had been altogether dropped at an earlier stage, were re-inserted. 

In the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh editions (that is ^om 
1914 to 1922), two essays by Otto Rank (on ‘Dreams and 
Creative Writing’ and ‘Dreams and Myths’) were printed at 
the end of Chapter VI, but were subsequently omitted. 

There remain the bibliographies. The first edition contained 
a list of some eighty books, to the great majority of which Freud 
refers in the text. This was left unchanged in the second and 
third editions, but in the third a second list was added, of some 
forty books written since 1900. Thereafter both lists began to 
increase rapidly, till in the eighth edition the first list contained 
some 260 works and the second over 200. At this stage only a 
minority of the titles in the first (pre-1900) list were of books 
actually mentioned in Freud’s text; while, on the other hand, the 
second (post-1900) list (as may be gathered from Freud’s own 
remarks in his various prefaces) could not really keep pace with 
the production of analytic or quasi-analytic writings on the 
subject. Furthermore, quite a number of works quoted by Freud 
in the text were not to be found in either list. It seepcs probable 
that, from the third edition onwards, Otto Rank became chiefly 
responsible for these bibliographies. 



( 2 ) 


The publication of Freud’s correspondence with Fliess enables 
us to follow the composition of The Interpretation of Dreams in 
some detail. In his ‘History of the Psycho-Analytic Movement’ 
(1914d), Freud wrote, looking back upon his leisurely rate of 
publication in earlier days; 'The Interpretation of Dreams^ for 
instance, was finished in all essentials at the beginning of 1896 
but was not written down until the summer of 1899.’ Again, in 
the introductory remarks to his paper on the psychological con- 
sequences of the anatomical distinction between the sexes 
(1925j), he wrote; ‘My Interpretation of Dreams and my “Frag- 
ment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria” [1905e] . . . were 
suppressed by me — if not for the nine years enjoined by Horace 
— at all events for four or five years before I allowed them to 
be published.’ We are now in a position to amplify and in 
certain respects to correct these later recollections, on the basis 
of the author’s contemporary evidence. 

Apart from a number of scattered references to the subject — 
which, in his correspondence, go back at least as early as 1882 — 
the first important published evidence of Freud’s interest in 
dreams occurs in the course of a long footnote to the first of his 
case histories (that of Frau Emmy von N., under the date of 
May 15) in Breuer and Freud’s Studies on Hysteria (1895). He is 
discussing the fact that neurotic patients seem to be under a 
necessity to bring into association with one another any ideas 
that happen to be simultaneously present in their minds. He 
goes on: ‘Not long ago I was able to convince myself of the 
strength of this compulsion towards association from some 
observations made in a different field. For several weeks I 
found myself obliged to exchange my usual bed for a harder 
one, in which I had more numerous or more vivid dreams, or 
in which, it may be, I was unable to reach the normal depth 
of sleep. In the first quarter of an hour after waking I remem- 
bered all the dreams I had had during the night, and I took the 
trouble to write them down and try to solve them. I succeeded 
in tracing all these dreams back to two factors: (1) to the 
necessity for working out any ideas which I had only dwelt 
upon cursorily during the day — ^which had only been touched 



upon and not finally dealt with; and (2) to the compulsion to 
link together any ideas that might be present in the same state 
of consciousness. The senseless and contradictory character of 
the dreams could be traced back to the uncontrolled ascendancy 
of this latter factor.’ 

This passage cannot unfortunately be exactly dated. The 
preface to the volume was written in* April 1895. A letter of 
June 22, 1894 (Letter 19), seems to imply that the case histories 
were already finished then, and this was quite certainly so by 
March 4, 1895. Freud’s letter of that date (Letter 22) is of 
particular interest, as giving the first hint of the theory of 
wish-fulfilment: in the course of it he quotes the story of the 
medical student’s ‘dream of convenience’ which is included on 
p. 125 of the present volume. It was not, however, until July 24, 
1895, that the analysis of his own dream of Irma’s injection — 
the specimen dream of Chapter II — established that theory 
definitely in Freud’s mind. (See Letter 137 of June 12, 1900.) 
In September of this same year (1895) Freud wrote the first 
part of his ‘Project for a Scientific Psychology’ (published as an 
Appendix to the Fliess correspondence) and Sections 19, 20 and 
21 of this ‘Project’ constitute a first approach to a coherent 
theory of dreams. It already includes many important elemeiits 
which re-appear in the present work, such as (1) the wish- 
fulfilling character of dreams, (2) their hallucinatory character, 
(3) the regressive functioning of the mind in hallucinations and 
dreams (this had already been indicated by Breuer in his 
theoretical contribution to Studies on Hysteria), (4) the fact that 
the state of sleep involves motor paralysis, (5) the nature of the 
mechanism of displacement in dreams and (6) the similarity 
between the mechanisms of dreams and of neurotic symptoms. 
More than all this, however, the ‘Project’ gives a clear indica- 
tion of what is probably the most momentous of the discoveries 
given to the world in The Interpretation of Dreams — ^the distinction 
between the two different modes of mental functioning, the 
* Primary and Secondary Processes. 

This, however, is far from exhausting the importance of the 
‘Project’ and of the letters to Fliess written in connection with 
it towards the end of 1895. It is no exaggeration to say that 
much of the seventh chapter of The Interpretation of Dreams, and, 
r indeed, of Freud’s later ‘metapsychological’ studies, has only 
become fully intelligible since the publication of the ‘Project’. 


Students of Freud’s theoretical writings have been aware that 
even in his profoundest psychological speculations little or no 
discussion is to be found upon some of the most fundamental of 
the concepts of which he makes use: such concepts, for instance, 
as ‘mental energy’, ‘sums of excitation’, ‘cathexis’, ‘quantity’, 
‘quality’, ‘intensity’, and so on. Almost the only explicit ap- 
proach to a discussion of these concepts among Freud’s pub- 
lished works is the penultimate sentence of his first paper on 
the ‘Neuro-Psychoses of Defence’ (1894^), in which he lays 
down a hypothesis that ‘in mental functions something is to be 
distinguished — a charge of affect or sum of excitation — which 
possesses all the characteristics of a quantity (though we have 
no means of measuring it), which is capable of increase, 
diminution, displacement and discharge, and which is spread 
over the memoiy'-traces of ideas somewhat as an electric charge 
is spread over the surface of a body’. The paucity of explanation 
of such basic notions in Freud’s later writings suggests that he 
was taking it for granted that they were as much a matter of 
course to his readers as they were to himself; and we owe it as 
a debt of gratitude to the posthumously published correspond- 
ence with Fliess that it tlirows so much light precisely upon 
these obscurities. 

It is, of course, impossible to enter here into any detailed 
discussion of the subject, and the reader must be referred to 
the volume itself (Freud, 1950a) and to Dr. Kris’s illuminating 
introduction to it.^ The crux of the position can, how'ever, be 
indicated quite simply. The essence of Freud’s ‘Project’ lay in 
the notion of combining into a single whole two theories of 
different origin. The first of these was derived ultimately from 
the physiological school of Helmholtz, of which Freud’s teacher, 
the physiologist Briicke, was a principal member. According to 
this theory, neurophysiology, and consequently psychology, was 
governed by purely chemico-physical laws. Such, for instance, 
was the ‘law of constancy’, frequently mentioned both by Freud 
and Breuer and expressed in these terms in 1892 (in a posthu- 
mously published draft, Breder and Freud, 1940) : ‘The nervous 
system endeavours to keep constant something in its functional 
condition that may be described as the “sum of excitation”.’ 
The greater part of the theoretic^d contribution made by Breuer 

'^Bernfeld’s paper on ‘Freud’s Earliest Theories’ (1944) is also of 
great interest in this connection. 



(another disciple of the Helmholtz school) to the Studies on 
Hysteria was an elaborate construction along these lines. The 
second main theory called into play by Freud in his ‘Project’ 
was the anatomical doctrine of the neurone, which was becom- 
ing accepted by neuro-anatomists at the end of the eighties. 
(The term ‘neurone’ was only inti'oduced, by Waldeyer, in 
1891.) This doctrine laid it down that the functional unit of 
the central nervous system was a distinct cell, having no 
direct anatomical continuity with adjacent cells. The opening 
sentences of the ‘Project’ show clearly how its basis lay in a 
combination of these two theories. Its aim, wrote Freud, was 
‘to represent psychical processes as quantitatively determined 
states of specifiable material particles’. He went on to postulate 
that these ‘material particles’ were the neurones and that what 
distinguished their being in a state of activity from their being 
in a state of rest was a ‘quantity’ which was ‘subject to the 
general laws of motion’. Thus a neurone might either be 
‘empty’ or ‘filled with a certain quantity’, that is ‘cathected’.^ 
‘Nervous excitation’ was to be interpreted as a ‘quantity’ flow- 
ing through a system of neurones, and such a current might 
either be resisted or facilitated according to the state of the 
‘contact-barriers’ between the neurones. (It was only later, in 
1897, that the term ‘synapse’ was introduced by Foster and 
Sherrington.) The functioning of the whole nervous system was 
subject to a general principle of ‘inertia’, according to which 
neurones always tend to get rid of any ‘quantity’ with which 
they may be filled — a principle correlative with the principle 
of ‘constancy’. Using these and similar concepts as his bricks, 
Freud constructed a highly complicated and extraordinarily 
ingenious working model of the mind as a piece of neurological 

A principal part was played in Freud’s scheme by a hypo- 
thetical division of the neurones into three classes or systems, • 
differentiated according to their modes of functioning. Of these 
the first two were concerned respectively with external stimuli 
and internal excitations. Both of these operated on a purely 
quantitative basis; that is to say, their actions were wholly deter- 

1 It must be emphasized that these speculations of Freud’s ^ate from 
a period many years before any systematic invesdgations had been made 
into the nature of nervous impulses and the conditions governing their 

i.D. — rv. 




mined by the magnitude of the nervous excitations impinging 
on them. The third system was correlated with the qualitative 
differences which distinguish conscious sensations and feelings. 
This division of the neurones into three systems was the basis 
of elaborate physiological explanations of such things as the 
working of memory, the perception of reality, the process of 
thought, and also the phenomena of dreaming and of neurotic 

But obscurities and difficulties began to accumulate and, 
during the months after writing the ‘Project’, Freud was con- 
tinually emending his theories. As time passed, his interest was 
gradually diverted from neurological and theoretical on to psy- 
chological and clinical problems, and he eventually abandoned 
the entire scheme. And when some years later, in the seventh 
chapter of the present book, he took the theoretical problem 
up once more — though he certainly never gave up his belief 
that ultimately a physical groundwork for psychology would 
be established — the neuro-physiological basis was ostensibly 
dropped. Nevertheless — and this is why the ‘Project’ is of im- 
portance to readers of The Interpretation of Dreams — much of the 
general pattern of the earlier scheme, and many of its elements, 
were carried over into the new one. The systems of neurones 
were replaced by psychical systems or agencies; a hypothetical 
‘cathexis’ of psychical energy took the place of the physical 
‘quantity’; the principle of inertia became the basis of the 
pleasure (or, as Freud here called it, the unpleasure) principle. 
Moreover, some of the detailed accounts of psychical processes 
given in the seventh chapter owe much to their physiological 
forerunners and can be more easily understood by reference to 
them. This applies, for instance, to the description of the laying 
down of memory-traces in the ‘mnemic systems’, to the dis- 
cussion of the nature of wishes and of the different ways of 
satisfying them, and to the stress laid upon the part played by 
verbal thought-processes in the making of adjustments to the 
demands of reality. 

All of this is enough largely to justify Freud’s assertion that 
The Interpretation of Dreams ‘was finished in all essentials at the 
beginnhtg of 1896’. Nevertheless, we are now in a position to 
add some qualifications. Thus, the existence of the Oedipus 
complex was only established during the summer and autumn 



of 1897 (Letters 64 to 71); and though this was not in itself a 
direct contribution to the theory of dreams, it nevertheless 
played a large part in emphasizing the infantile roots of the 
unconscious wishes underlying dreams. Of more obvious 
theoretical importance was the discovery of the omnipresence 
in dreams of the wish to sleep. This was announced by Freud 
as late as on June 9, 1899 (Letter 108). Again, the first hint at 
the process of ‘secondary revision’ seems to be given in a letter 
of July 7, 1897 (Letter 66). The similarity in structure between 
dreams and neurotic symptoms had, as we have seen, already 
been remarked on in the ‘Project’ in 1895, and was alluded to 
at intervals up to the autumn of 1897. Curiously enough, how- 
ever, it seems thereafter to have been forgotten; for it is 
announced on January 3, 1899 (Letter 101), as a new discovery 
and as an explanation of why the book had so long remained 

The Fliess correspondence enables us to follow the actual 
process of composition in some detail. The idea of writing the 
book is first mentioned by Freud in May 1897, but quickly put 
on one side, probably because his interest began to be centred 
at that time on his self-analysis, which was to lead during the 
summer to his discovery of the Oedipus complex. At the end ©f 
the year the book was taken up once more, and in the early 
months of 1898 a first draft of the whole work seems to have 
been completed, with the exception of the first chapter. ^ Work 
upon it came to a standstill in June of that year and was not 
resumed after the summer vacation. On October 23, 1898 
(Letter 99), Freud writes that the book ‘remains stationary, 
unchanged; I have no motive for preparing it for publi- 
cation, and the gap in the psychology [i.e. Chapter VII] 
as well as the gap left by removing the completely analysed 
sample dream [cf. p. xx] are obstacles to my finishing it 
which I have not yet overcome’. There was a pause of many 
months, till suddenly, and, as Freud himself writes, ‘for no 
particular reason’, the book began to stir again towards the end 
of May 1899, Thereafter it proceeded rapidly. The first chapter, 
dealing with the literature, which had always been a bugrbear 

^ This must be what is alluded to in a passage on p. 477 of the present 
work, in which Freud remarks that he had ‘postponed the printing of 
the finished manuscript for more than a year’. Actually the first chapter 
had still to be written. • 



to Freud, was finished in June and the first pages sent to the 
printer. The revision of the middle chapters was completed by 
the end of August, and the last, psychological, chapter was 
entirely re-written and the final pages despatched early in 

Both the manuscript and the proofs were regularly submitted 
by Freud to Fliess for his criticism. He seems to have had con- 
siderable influence on the final shape of the book, and to have 
been responsible for the omission (evidently on grounds of dis- 
cretion) of an analysis of one important dream of Freud’s own 
(cf. p. xix). But the severest criticisms came from the author 
himself, and these were directed principally against the style 
and literary form. T think’, he wrote on September 21, 1899 
(Letter 119), when the book was finished, ‘my self-criticism was 
not entirely unjustified. Somewhere hidden within me I too 
have some fragmentary sense of form, some appreciation of 
beauty as a species of perfection; and the involved sentences of 
my book on dreams, bolstered up on indirect phrases and with 
sidelong glances at their subject-matter, have gravely affronted 
some ideal within me. And I am scarcely wrong in regarding 
this lack of form as a sign of an incomplete mastery of the 

But in spite of these self-criticisms, and in spite of the depres- 
sion which followed the almost total neglect of the book by the 
outside world — only 351 copies were sold in the first six years 
after publication — The Interpretation of Dreams was always re- 
garded by Freud as his most important work: ‘Insight such as 
this’, as he wrote in his preface to the third English edition, 
‘falls to one’s lot but once in a lifetime.’ 



The present translation is based on the eighth (1930) German 
edition, the last published during its author’s life. At the same 
time, it differs from all previous editions (both German and 
English) in an important respect, for it is in the nature of a 
‘Variorum’ edition. An effort has been made to indicate, 
with dates, every alteradon of substance introduced into the 
book since its first issue. Wherever material has been dropped 
or .greatly modified in later editions, the cancelled passage 


or earlier version is given in a footnote. The only exception 
is that Rank’s two appendices to Chapter VI have been 
omitted. The question of their inclusion was seriously con- 
sidered; but it was decided against doing so. The essays are 
entirely self-contained and have no direct connections with 
Freud’s book; they would have filled another fifty pages or so; 
and they would be particularly un^nlightening to English 
readers, since they deal in the main with German literature 
and German mythology. 

The bibliographies have been entirely recast. The first of 
these contains a list of every work actually referred to in the 
text or footnotes. This bibliography is also arranged to serve as 
an Author Index. The second bibliography contains all the 
works in the German pre-1900 list not actually quoted by Freud. 
It has seemed worth while to print this, since no other com- 
parably full bibliography of the older literature on dreams is 
easily accessible. Writings after 1900, apart from those actually 
quoted and consequently included in the first bibliography, 
have been disregarded. A warning must, however, be issued in 
regard to both my lists. Investigation has shown a very high 
proportion of errors in the German bibliographies. These have 
been corrected wherever possible; but quite a number of the 
entries have proved to be untraceable in London, and these 
(which are distinguished by an asterisk) must be regarded as 

Editorial additions are printed in square brackets. Many 
readers will no doubt be irritated by the number of references 
and other explanatory notes. The references, however, are 
essentially to Freud’s own writings, and very few will be found 
to other authors (apart, of course, from references made by 
Freud himself). In any case, the fact must be faced that The 
Interpretation of Dreams is one of the major classics of scientific 
literature and that the time has come to treat it as such. It 
is the editor’s hope and belief that actually the references, and 
more particularly the cross-references to other parts of the work 
itself, will make it easier for serious students to follow the 
intricacies of the material. Readers in search of mere entertain- 
ment — if there are any such — must steel themselves to disregard 
these parentheses. • 

A word must be added upon the translation itself. Great 
attention has had, of course, to be paid to the details of, the 


wording of the text of dreams. Where the English rendering 
strikes the reader as unusually stiff, he may assume that the 
stiffness has been imposed by some verbal necessity determined 
by the interpretation that is to follow. Where there are incon- 
sistencies between different versions of the text of the same 
dream, he may assume that there are parallel inconsistencies in 
the original. These verbal difficulties culminate in the fairly 
frequent instances in which an interpretation depends entirely 
upon a pun. There are three methods of dealing with such 
situations. The translator can omit the dream entirely, or he 
can replace it by another parallel dream, whether derived from 
his own experience or fabricated ad hoc. These two methods have 
been the ones adopted in the main in the earlier translations of 
the book. But there are serious objections to them. We must 
once more remember that we are dealing with a scientific 
classic. What we want to hear about are the examples chosen 
by Freud — not by someone else. Accordingly the present trans- 
lator has adopted the pedantic and tiresome third alternative 
of keeping the original German pun and laboriously explaining 
it in a square bracket or footnote. Any amusement that might 
be got out of it completely evaporates in the process. But 
that, unfortunately, is a sacrifice that has to be made. 

Help in the laborious task of proof-reading has been gener- 
ously given (among others) by Mrs. R. S. Partridge and 
Dr. C. F. Rycroft. Mrs. Partridge is also largely responsible for 
the index. The revision of the bibliographies has in the main 
been carried out by Mr. G. Talland. 

Finally, the editor’s thanks are due to Dr. Ernest Jones for 
his eonstant advice and eneouragement. The first volume of his 
Freud biography will be found to throw invaluable light on the 
background of this work as a whole, as well as on mtiny of its 

Preface to the First Edition 

I HAVE attempted in this volume to give an account of the 
interpretation of dreams; and in doing fio I have not, I believe, 
trespassed beyond the sphere of interest covered by neuro- 
pathology. For psychological investigation shows that the dream 
is the first member of a class of abnormal psychical phenomena 
of which further members, such as hysterical phobias, obses- 
sions and delusions, are bound for practical reasons to be a 
matter of concern to physicians. As will be seen in the sequel, 
dreams can make no such claim to practical importance; but 
their theoretical value as a paradigm is on the other hand pro- 
portionately greater. Anyone who has failed to explain the 
origin of dream-images can scarcely hope to understand 
phobias, obsessions or delusions or to bring a therapeutic 
influence to bear on them. 

But the same correlation that is responsible for the import- 
ance of the subject must also bear the blame for the deficiencies 
of the present work. The broken threads which so frequentiy 
interrupt my presentation are nothing less than the many 
points of contact between the problem of the formation of 
dreams and the more comprehensive problems of psycho- 
pathology. These camrot be treated here, but, if time and 
strength allow and further material comes to hand, will form 
the subject of later communications. 

The difficulties of presentation have been further increased 
by the peculiarities of the material which I have had to use to 
illustrate the interpreting of dreams. It will become plain in the 
course of the work itself why it is that none of the dreams already 
reported in the literature of the subject or collected fi'om un- 
known sources could be of any use for my purposes. The only 
dreams open to my choice were my own and those of my 
patients undergoing psycho-analytic treatment. But I was pre- 
cluded from using the latter material by the fact that in its case 
the dream-processes were subject to an undesirable complica- 
tion owing to the added presence of neurotic features. But if 
I was to report my own dreams, it inevitably followed that I 
should have to reveal to the public gaze more of the intimaicies 



of my mental life than I liked, or than is normally necessary for 
any ^vriter who is a man of science and not a poet. Such was 
the painful but unavoidable necessity; and I have submitted to 
it rather than totally abandon the possibility of giving the 
evidence for my psychological findings. Naturally, however, I 
have been unable to resist the temptation of taking the edge off 
some of my indiscretions by omissions and substitutions. But 
whenever this has happened, the value of my instances has been 
very definitely diminished. I can only express a hope that 
readers of this book will put themselves in my difficult situation 
and treat me with indulgence, and further, that anyone who 
finds any sort of reference to himself in my dreams may be 
willing to grant me the right of freedom of thought — in my 
dream-life, if nowhere else. 

Preface to the Second Edition 

If within ten years of the publication of this book (which is very 
far from being an easy one to read) a second edition is called for, 
this is not due to the interest taken in it by the professional 
circles to whom my original preface was addressed. My psy- 
chiatric colleagues seem to have taken no trouble to overcome 
the initial bewilderment created by my new approach to 
dreams. The professional philosophers have become accustomed 
to polishing off the problems of dream-life (which they treat as 
a mere appendix to conscious states) in a few sentences — and 
usually in the same ones; and they have evidently failed to 
notice that we have something here from which a number of 
inferences can be drawn that are bound to transform our 
psychological theories. The attitude adopted by reviewers in 
the scientific periodicals could only lead one to suppose that 
my work was doomed to be sunk into complete silence; while 
the small group of gallant supporters, who practise medical 
psycho-analysis under my guidance and who follow my example 
in interpreting dreams and make use of their interpretations in 
treating neurotics, would never have exhausted the first edition 
of the book. Thus it is that I feel indebted to a wider circle of 
educated and curious-minded readers, whose interest has led 
me to take up once more after nine years this difficult, but in 
many respects fundamental, work. 

I am glad to say that I have found little to change in it. Here 
and there I have inserted some new material, added some fresh 
points of detail derived from my increased experience, and at 
some few points recast my statements. But the essence of what 
I have written about dreams and their interpretation, as well 
as about the psychological theorems to be deduced from them 
— all this remains unaltered: subjectively at all events, it has 
stood the test of time. Anyone who “is acquainted with my other 
writings (on the aetiology and mechanism of the psycho- 
neuroses) will know that I have never put forward inconclusive 
opinions as though they were established facts, and that I have 
always sought to modify my statements so that they may keep 
in step with my advancing knowledge. In the sphere of dre|im- 




life I have been able to leave my original assertions unchanged. 
During the long years in which I have been working at the 
problems of the neuroses I have often been in doubt and some- 
times been shaken in my convictions. At such times it has 
always been the Interpretation of Dreams that has given me back 
my certainty. It is thus a sure instinct which has led my many 
scientific opponents to refuse to follow me more especially in 
my researches upon dreams. 

An equal durability and power to withstand any far-reaching 
alterations during the process of revision has been shown by 
the material of the book, consisting as it does of dreams of my 
own which have for the most part been overtaken or made 
valueless by the march of events and by which I illustrated the 
rules of dream-interpretation. For this book has a further sub- 
jective significance for me personally — a significance which I 
only grasped after I had completed it. It was, I found, a portion 
of my own self-analysis, my reaction to my father’s death — that 
is to say, to the most important event, the most poignant loss, 
of a man’s life. Having discovered that this was so, I felt unable 
to obliterate the traces of the experience.^ To my readers, how- 
ever, it will be a matter of indifference upon what particular 
material they learn to appreciate the importance of dreams and 
how to interpret them. 

Wherever I have found it impossible to incorporate some 
essential addition into the original context, I have indicated its 
more recent date by enclosing it in square brackets.* 

Berchtesgaden, Summer 1908 

* [Freud’s father had died in 1896. Some account of his feelings at 
the time will be found in his letter to Fliess of November 2, 1896. 
(Freud 1950a, Letter 50.)] 

* [Footnote added 1914.] In later editions [from the fourth onwards] 
these were omitted. 

Preface to the Third Edition 

Nine years elapsed between the first and second editions of this 
book, but after scarcely more than a single year a third edition 
has become necessary. This new turn of events may please me; 
but just as formerly I was unwilling to regard the neglect of my 
book by readers as evidence of its worthlessness, so I cannot 
claim that the interest which is now being taken in it is a proof 
of its excellence. 

Even the Interpretation of Dreams has not been left untouched 
by the advance of scientific knowledge. When I wrote it in 1899, 
my theory of sexuality was not yet in existence and the analysis 
of the more complicated forms of psycho-neurosis was only just 
beginning. It was my hope that dream-interpretation would 
help to make possible the psychological analysis of neuroses; 
since then a deeper understanding of neuroses has reacted in 
turn upon our view of dreams. The theory of dream-inter- 
pretation has itself developed further in a direction on whieh 
insufficient stress had been laid in the first edition of this book. 
My own experience, as well as the works of Wilhelm Stekel and 
others, have since taught me to form a truer estimate of the 
extent and importance of symbolism in dreams (or rather in 
unconscious thinking). Thus in the course of these years much 
has accumulated which demands attention. I have endeavoured 
to take these innovations into account by making numerous 
interpolations in the text and by additional footnotes. If these 
additions threaten at times to burst the whole framework of the 
book or if I have not everywhere succeeded in bringing the 
original text up to the level of our present knowledge, I must 
ask the reader’s indulgence for these deficiencies: they are the 
results and signs of the present increasingly rapid development 
of our science. I may even venture to prophesy in what other 
directions later editions of this book — if any should be needed — 
will differ from the present one. They will have on the one hand 
to afford a closer contact with the copious material presented 
in imaginative writing, in myths, in linguistic usage and in 
folklore; while on the other hand they will have to deaj in 


greater detail than has here been possible with the relations of 
dreams to neuroses and mental diseases. 

Herr Otto Rank has given me valuable assistance in selecting 
the additional matter and has been entirely responsible for 
correcting the proofs. I owe my thanks to him and to many 
others for their contributions and corrections. 

Vienna, Spring 1911 

Preface to the Fourth Edition 

Last year (1913) Dr. A. A. Brill of New York produced an 
English translation of this book {The Interpretation of Dreams, 
G. Allen & Co., London). 

On this occasion Dr. Otto Rank has not only corrected the 
proofs but has also contributed two self-contained chapters to 
the text — the appendices to Chapter VI. 

Vienna, June 1914 

Preface to the Fifth Edition 

Interest in the Interpretation of Dreams has not flagged even 
during the World War, and while it ii still in progress a new 
edition has become necessary. It has not been possible, however, 
to notice fully publications since 1914; neither Dr. Rank nor I 
have any knowledge of foreign works since that date. 

A Hungarian translation, prepared by Dr. Hollos and Dr. 
Ferenczi, is on the point of appearing. In 1916-17 my Intro- 
ductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis w'ere published in Vienna by 
Hugo Heller. The central section of these, comprising eleven 
lectures, is devoted to an account of dreams which aims at being 
more elementary and at being in closer contact with the theory 
of the neuroses than the present work. On the whole it is in the 
nature of an epitome of the Interpretation of Dreams, though at 
certain points it enters into greater detail. 

I have not been able to bring myself to embark upon any 
fundamental revision of this book, which might bring it up to 
the level of our present psycho-analytic views but would cffi 
the other hand destroy its historic character. I think, however, 
that after an existence of nearly twenty years it has accomplished 
its task. 

Bodapest-Steinbrugh, July 1918 

•' Preface to the Sixth Edition 

Owing to the difficulties in which the book trade is placed at 
present, this new edition has long been in demand, and the 
preceding edition has, for the first time, been reprinted without 
any alterations. Only the bibliography at the end of the volume 
has been completed and brought up to date by Dr. Otto Rank. 

Thus my assumption that after an existence of nearly twenty 
years this book had accomplished its task has not been con- 
firmed. On the contrary, I might say that it has a new task to 
perform. If its earlier function was to oflTer some information on 

. xxix 



the nature of dreams, now it has tire no less important duty 
of dealing with the obstinate misunderstandings to which that 
information is subject. 

Vienna, April 1921 

Preface to the Eighth Edition 

During the interval between the publication of the last 
(seventh) edition of this book in 1922 and the present one, my 
Gesammelte Schriften [Collected Writings] have been issued in 
Vienna by the Internationaler Psychoanalytischer Verlag. The 
second volume of that collection consists of an exact reprint of 
the first edition of the Interpretation of Dreams, while the third 
volume contains all the additions that have since been made to 
it. The translations of the book which have appeared during the 
same interval are based upon the usual, single-volume, form of 
the work; a French one by I. Meyerson published under the 
title of La science des rives in the ‘Biblioth^que de Philosophie 
Contemporaine’ in 1926; a Swedish one by John Landquist, 
Dromtydning (1927); and a Spanish one by Luis Lopez- 
Ballesteros y de Torres [1922], which occupies Volumes VI and 
VII of the Obras Completas. The Hungarian translation, which 
I thought was on the point of completion as long ago as in 1918, 
has even now not appeared.^ 

In the present revised edition of the work I have again 
treated it essentially as an historic document and I have only 
made such alterations in it as were suggested by the clarifica- 
tion and deepening of my own opinions. In accordance with 
this, I have finally given up the idea of including a list of works 
on the problems of dreams published since the book’s first 
appearance, and that section has now been dropped. The two 
essays which Otto Rank contributed to earlier editions, on 
‘Dreams and Creative Writing’ and ‘Dreams and Myths’, have 
also been omitted. [See p. xxi.] 

Vienna, December 1929 


[It was published in 1934. — During Freud’s lifedme, in addition 
to the translations mentioned in these prefaces, a Russian version 
appeared in 1913, a Japanese one in 1930 and a Czech one in 1938.] 

Preface to the Third (Revised) English Edition 

In 1909 G. Stanley Hall imdted me to Clark University, in 
Worcester, to give the first lectures on psycho-analysis. In the 
same year Dr. Brill published the first of his translations of my 
writings, which were soon followed by further ones. If psycho- 
analysis now plays a role in American intellectual life, or if it 
does so in the future, a large part of this result will have to be 
attributed to this and other activities of Dr. Brill’s. 

His first ti'anslation of The Interpretation of Dreams appeared in 
1913. Since then much has taken place in the world, and much 
has been changed in our views about the neuroses. This book, 
with the new contribution to psychology which surprised the 
world when it was published (1900), remains essentially un- 
altered. It contains, even according to my present-day judge- 
ment, the most valuable of all the discoveries it has been my 
good fortune to make. Insight such as this falls to one’s lot but 
once in a lifetime. 


Vienna, March 15, 1931 

1 [This is not included in the German editions and no German text 
is extant. It is here reprinted exactly from the 1932 English edition.] 



In the pages that follow I shall bring forward proof that there 
is a psychological technique which makes it possible to intci-gret 
dreams, and that, if that procedure is employed, ev*" ' Q 
reveals itself as a psychical structure which has a ' aim g 
which can be inserted at an assignable poin^ n. ic. iijental 
activities of waking life. I shall further end- . ' o . r n ^cidate 
the processes to which the strangeness ar jc - ity^of dreams 
are due and to deduce from those p*" ' v- • • ^«C‘-'hature of the 
psychical forces by whose concu’ xSjitually opposing 

action dreams are generated. H'’ .. ’ gone thus far, my des- 
cription will break off, for it V'-h OyV’e reached a point at which 
the problem of dreams merge*^ -^o more comprehensive prob- 
lems, the solution of whi ,i i«*i)t^e .approached upon the basis 
of material of another 1 ^ 

I shall give by way •■'iJlce a review of the work done by 
earlier writers on the .. :t'as well as of the present position 
of the problems of d - the world of science, since in the 

course of my discm >hall not often have occasion to revert 

to those topics. F- - fpite of many thousands of years of 
effort, the scient- ' . -d^rstanding of dreams has made very 

little advance-7'^ h generally admitted in the literature 
that it seems j'niief „pry to quote instances in support of it. 
In these writ^ 'which a list appears at the end of my 
work, many/ ring observations are to be found and a 

quantity o^=^i!^ere:ting material bearing upon our theme, but 
litde or notl'^s touches upon the essential nature of dreams 

or that ^ solution of any of their enigmas. And still 

VjSj of con i'- . ' ' passed into the knowledge of educated laymen. 

It m/i oc; a-^ed® what view was taken of dreams in pre- 
historic primitive races of men and what effect dreams 

1 fd in second to seventh editions:] Up to the date of the 

gist pMi,.!catioy of this book (1900). 

■ * rfhi paraj^aph and the next were added in 1914.] 


may have had upon the formation of their conceptions of the 
world and of the soul; and this is a subject of such great interest 
that it is only with much reluctance that I refrain from dealing 
with it in this connection. I must refer my readers to the stan- 
dard works of Sir John Lubbock, Herbert Spencer, E. B. Tylor 
. d others, and I will only add that we shall not be able to 
. ii eciate the wide range of these problems and speculations 
until we have dealt with the task that lies before us here — the 
iatetpretadon of dreams. 

The prehistoric view of dreams is no doubt echoed in the 
attitude adopted towards dreams by the peoples of classical 
imdqv.Ly.i T’: ;.V took it as axiomatic that dreams were con- 
nect.* i wi! ! The world of superljumu beings in whom they 
believed a-x ; :aat they were revelai . tn gods and daemons. 
There c«:: .\' be no question, mor, ' 'hat for the dreamer 
dreams h-- . an important (V !,pose, v' ■ was as a rule to fore- 
tell the future. The extra;, '.' ■'ry ■ t'.iv. in the content of 
dreams and in the impressK;-! , p . l ic -d made it difficult, 
however, to have any uniform viev/ of ■ ind made it neces- 
sary to classify dreams into nv uorous I 'l-i and subdivisions 
according to their impo‘:1.»nce and tinst - .1 less. The position 
adopted towards dreams L y individual p i , , ; ...uhers in antiquity 
was naturally dependent to some exit- : ,.p. n their attitude 
towards divination in general. 

In the two works of Aristotle which dp^. : ..h dreams, they 
have already become a subject for psychblopcai study. We are 
told that dreams are not sent by the god.s -::d are not of a 
divine character, but that they are ‘daemonic , since nature is 
‘daemonic’ and not divine. Dreams, that is; d , . ^t arise from 
supernatural manifestations but follow the ja,v -.i the human 
spirit, though the latter, it is true, is akin to thf c;-, ;ne. Dreams 
are defined as the mental activity of the sleer^js so far as he 
is asleep.® 

1 [Footnote added 1914:] What follows is based on Bi-chsenschiitz’s 
scholarly study (1868). 

* [De dioinatione per somnum, II {Trans., 1935, 377), and D. somniis, III 
{Trans., 1935, 365). — In the first edition (1900) this paragrajh ran: ‘The 
first work in which dreams were treated as a subject for psychological 
study seems to be that of Aristotle {On Dreams and their In^r^pf elation). 
Aristotle declares that dreams are of a “daemonic” but hot of^ “divine” 
nature; no doubt this distinction has some great significance i'^e knew 
how to translate it correctly.’ The next paragraph ended witi thg sen. 



Aristotle was aware of some of the characteristics of dream- 
life. He knew, for instance, that dreams give a magnified con- 
struction to small stimuli arising during sleep. ‘Men think that 
they are walking through fire and are tremendously hot, when 
there is only a slight heating about certain parts.’ ^ And from 
this circumstance he draws the conclusion that dreams may 
very well betray to a physician the fii^t signs of some bodily 
change which has not been observed in waking. * 

Before the time of Aristotle, as we know, the ancients 
regarded dreams not as a product of the dreaming mind but as 
something introduced by a divine agency; and already the two 
opposing currents, which we shall find influencing opinions of 
dream-life at every period of history, were making themselves 
felt. The distinction was drawn between truthful and valuable 
dreams, sent to the sleeper to warn him or foretell the future, and 
vain, deceitful and worthless dreams, whose purpose it was to 
mislead or destroy him. 

Gruppe (1906, 2, 930) ® quotes a classification of dreams on 
these lines made by Macrobius and Artemidorus [of Daldis (see 
p. 98 B.)]: ‘Dreams were divided into two classes. One class 
was supposed to be influenced by the present or past, but to 
have no future significance. It included the ivimvia or insomnia^ 
which gave a direct representation of a given idea or of its 
opposite — e.g. of hunger or of its satiation — , and the (panda fioxa, 
which lent a fantastic extension to the given idea — e.g. the 
nightmare or ephialtes. The other class, on the contrary, was 
supposed to determine the future. It included (1) direct 
prophecies received in a dream (the xprujianapioi or oracidum), 

(2) previsions of some future event (the Spapta or vino) and 

(3) symbolic dreams, which needed interpretation, (the dveipos 
or somnium). This theory persisted for many centuries.’ 

tence: ‘My own insufficient knowledge and my lack of specialist assist- 
ance prevent my entering more deeply into Aristotle’s treatise.’ These 
passages were altered into their present form in 1914; and a note in 
Gesammelte Schriften, 3, (1925), 4, points out that in fact Aristotle wrote 
not one but two works on the subject.] 

^ \Pe divimtione, I (Trans., 1935, 375)]. 

’ [Footnote added 1914:] The Greek physician Hippocrates deals with 
the relation of dreams to illnesses in one of the chapters of his famous 
work [Ancient Medicine, X (Trans., 1923, 31). See also Regimen, IV, 88, 
passim. (Trans., 1931, 425, etc.)] 

* [This paragraph was added as a footnote in 1911 and included in 
the text in 1914.] . 



Tliis TaiialiQn in the value tiiat was to "be assigned to dreams ^ 
"was closely related to the problem of 'interpreting’ them. Im- 
portant consequences tvere in general to be espected fiom 
dreams. But dreams ivere not aU immediately comprehensible 
a-nii it -was impossible, to teH -whether a particular unintelli^ble 
dream might not be -maln-ng some important announcement. 
This provided an incentive lor elaborating a method by which 
the unintelligibie content of a dream might be replaced by one 
that was comprehensible and sig ni ficant. In the later years of 
andquit}- Artemi doras ofDaldis was regarded as the greatest 
authority on the interpretation of dreams, and the suiviv'al of 
his ethaustive worlt \ 07 ihrorrriicc^\ must compensate "us for the 
loss of the other v^~tings■ on the same snl^ect.- 

The pre-scienri£c -new of dreams adopted by the peoples of 
antiquity vras certainly in complete harmony -with their view of 
the universe in general, -which led them to project into the ex- 
ternal vi'orld as though they were realities things which in fact 
enjoyed reality oit'.y within their otm minds, hloreover, their 
view of dreams took into account the principal impression pro- 
duced upon the -waking mind in the morning by what is left of 
a dream in the memort': an impression of something alien, 
•’■rising from another world and contrasting with the remaining 
contents of the mind. Incidentally, it ■would be a mistake to 
suppose that the theory of the supernatural origin of dreams is 
without its supporters in o-ox otm days. may leave on one 
side pietistic and mysneal -writers, who, indeed, are perfectly 
jiKtified in remaining in occupation of what is left of the once 
■wide domain of the supernatural so long as ihat field is not con- 
quered by scientific explanation. But apart from them, one 
comes across clear-headed men, wdihout any extravagant ideas, 
who seek to support their religio'os faith in the existence and 

1 [This paragraph wvis added in 1914.] 

* IFootnote added 1914:] For the further history of dream-inteipretatiQn 
in the Middle Ages see Diepgen (1912) and the monographs of Foistcr 
(1910 and 1911), Gotthard (1912), etc. Dream-inteipretation among 
the Jews has been discussed by Ahnoli (1848), .Amram (1901), and 
Lo'winger (1908); also, quite recently and taVing acawnt of psycho- 
analytic findings, by Lauer (1913). Information upon dream-inteipreta- 
tion among the Arabs has been given by Drexl (19C©), Schwarz (1913) 
and the missionary Tfinkdji (1913); among &e Japanese by Mhira 
(1906) and Iwaya (1902); among the Chinese by Setter (1909-10); 
and among the people of India by Negdein (1912). 


activity of superhuman spiritual forces precisely by the in- 
explicable nature of the phenomena of dreaming. (Gf. HafFner, 
1887.) The high esteem in which dream-life is held by some 
schools of philosophy (by the followers of Schelling,^ for in- 
stance) is clearly an echo of the divine nature of dreams which 
was undisputed in antiquity. Nor are discussions of the pre- 
monitory character of dreams and their power to foretell the 
future at an end. For attempts at giving a psychological ex- 
planation have been inadequate to cover the material collected, 
however decidedly the sympathies of those of a scientific cast 
of mind may incline against accepting any such beliefs. 

It is difficult to write a history of the scientific study of the 
problems of dreams because, however valuable that study may 
have been at a few points, no line of advance in any particular 
direction can be traced. No foundation has been laid of secure 
findings upon which a later investigator might build; but each 
new writer examines the same problems afresh and begins 
again, as it were, from the beginning. If I attempted to take 
those who have written on the question in chronological order 
and to give a summary of their views upon the problems of 
dreams, I should have to abandon any hope of giving a conf^ 
prehensive general picture of the present state of knowledge of 
the subject. I have therefore chosen to frame my account accord- 
ing to topics rather than authors and, as I raise each dream- 
problem in turn, I shall bring fonvard whatever material the 
literature contains for its solution. 

Since, however, it has been impossible for me to cover the 
whole of the literature of the subject, widely scattered as it is 
and trenching upon many other fields, I must ask my readers 
to be satisfied so long as no fundamental fact and no important 
point of view is overlooked in my description. 

Until recently most writers on the subject have felt obliged 
to treat sleep and dreams as a single topic, and as a rule they 
have dealt in addition with analogous conditions on the fringe 

1 [The chief exponent of the pantheistic ‘Philosophy of Nature’, popu- 
lar in Germany during the early part of the nineteenth century. — Freud 
often recurred to the question of the occult significance of dreams. Cf. 
Freud 1922a, 1925t (Part 3) and 1933a (Lecture 30). An allegedly 
premonitory dream is discussed in Freud 1941c [1899], printed as an 
Appendix to this work, p. 623. See also pp. 65 and 621 below.] • 


of pathology, and dream-like states, such as hallucinations, 
visions and so on. The latest works, on the contrary, show a 
preference for a restricted theme and take as their subject, 
perhaps, some isolated question in the field of dream-life. I 
should be glad to see in this change of attitude the expression 
of a conviction that in such obscure matters it will only be 
possible to arrive at explanations and agreed results by a series 
of detailed investigations. A piece of detailed research of that 
kind, predominantly psychological in character, is all I have to 
offer in these pages. I have had little occasion to deal with the 
problem of sleep, for that is essentially a problem of physiology, 
even though one of the characteristics of the state of sleep must 
be that it brings about modifications in the conditions of 
functioning of the mental apparatus. The literature on the 
subject of sleep is accordingly disregarded in what follows. 

The questions raised by a scientific enquiry into the 
phenomena of dreams as such may be grouped under the head- 
ings which follow, though a certain amount of overlapping can- 
not be avoided. 



The unsophisticated waking judgemant of someone who has 
just woken from sleep assumes that his dreams, even if they did 
not theiriselyes come from another world,' had at all events 
carried him off into another world. The old physiolo^st 
Burdach (1838, 499), to whom we owe a careful and shrewd 
account of the phenomena of dreams; has given expression to 
this conviction in a much-quoted passage: Tn dreams, daily 
life, with its labours and pleasures, its joys and pains, 'is never 
repeated. On the contrary, dreams ha^e as their very aim to 
free us from it. Even when our whole mind has been filled with 
something, when we are torn by some deep sorrow or when all 
our intellectual power is absorbed in some problem^ a dream 
win do no more than enter into the tone of our mood and 
represent reality in symbols.’ I. H. Fichte (1864, 1 , 541), Jn 
the same sense, actuaHy speaks of ‘complementary dreams* 
and describes them as one of the secret benefactions of the self> 
healing nature of the spirit.^ Striimpell (1877, 16) writes to 
similar effect in his study on the nature and origin of dreams — 
a work which is widely and deservedly held in high esteem: 
‘A man who dreams is removed from the world of waking con- 
sciousness.’ So too (ibid., 17): ‘In dreams our memory of the 
ordered contents of waking consciousness and of its normal 
behaviour is as good as completely lost.’ And again (ibid., 19) 
he writes that ‘the mind is cut off in dreams, almost without 
memory, from the ordinary content and affairs of waking life’. 

The preponderant majority of writers, however, take a con- 
trary view of the relation of dreams to waking life. Thus 
Haffner (1887, 245) : .‘In the first place, dreams carry on waking 
life. Our dreams regularly attach themselves to the ideas that 
have been in our consciousness shortly before. Accurate observa- 
tion will almost always find a thread which connects a dream 
with the experiences of the previous day.’ Weygandt (1893, 6) ' 
specificedly contradicts Burdach’s statement which I have just 
quoted: ‘For it may often, and apparently in the majority of 
^ [This sentence was added in 1914.] 



dreams, be observed that they actually lead us back to ordinary 
life instead of freeing us from it.’ Maury (1878, 51) advances a 
concise formula: ‘Nous revons de ce quc nous avons vu, dit, 
desire ou fait’ji while Jessen, in his book on psychology (1855, 
530), remarks at somewhat greater length: ‘The. content of a 
dream is invariably more or less determined by the individual 
personality of the dreamer, by his age, sex, class, standard of 
education and habitual way of living, and by the events and 
experiences of his whole previous life.’ 

The most uncompromising attitude on this question® is 
adopted byj. G. E. Maass, the philosopher (1805, [1, 168 and 
173]), quoted by Winterslein (1912): ‘Experience confirms 
our view that we dream most frequently of the things on which 
our warmest passions are centred. And this shows that our 
passions must have an influence on the production of our 
dreams. The ambitious man dreams of the laurels he has won 
(or imagines he has won) or of those he has still to win; while 
the lover is busied in his dreams with the object of his sweet 
hopes. . . . All the sensual desires and repulsions that slumber 
in the heart can, if anything sets them in motion, cause a dream 
to arise from the ideas that are associated with them or cause 
•those ideas to intervene in a dream that is already present.’ 

The same view w'as taken in antiquity on the dependence of 
the content of dreams upon waking life. Radestock (1879, 134) 
tells us how before Xerxes started on his expedition against 
Greece, he was given sound advice of a discouraging kind but 
was always urged on again by his dreams; whereupon Arta- 
banus, the sensible old Persian interpreter of dreams, observed 
to him pertinently that as a rule dream-pictures contain what 
the waking man already thinks. 

Lucretius’ didactic poem De rerum natura contains the follow- 
ing passage (IV, 962) : 

Et quo quisque fere studio devinctus adhaeret 
aut quibus in rebus multum sumus ante morati 
atque in ea ratione fuit contenta magis mens, 
in somnis eadem plerumque videmur obire; 
causidici causas agere et componere leges, 
induperatores pugnare ac proelia obire . . ? 

^ [‘We dream of what we have seen, said, desired or done.’] 

® [This paragraph was added in 1914.] 

* [‘And whatever be the pursuit to which one clings with devotion, 
whatever the things on which we have been occupied much in the past. 



Cicero {De divinatione, II, Ixvii, 140) writes to exactly the 
same eflFect as Maury so many years later: ‘Maximeque 
reliquiae rerum earum moventur in animis et agitantur de 
quibus vigilantes aut cogitavimus aut egimus.’^ 

The contradiction between these two views upon the rela- 
tion between dream-life and waking life seems in fact insoluble. 
It is therefore relevant at this point to. recall the discussion of 
the subject by Hildebrandt (1875, 8 ff.), who believes that it is 
impossible to describe the characteristics of dreams at all except 
by means of ‘a series of [three] contrasts which seem to sharpen 
into contradictions’. ‘The first of these contrasts’, he writes, ‘is 
afforded on the one hand by the completeness with which 
dreams are secluded and separated from real and actual life 
and on the other hand by their constant encroachment upon 
each other and their constant mutual dependence. A dream is 
something completely severed from the reality experienced in 
waking life, something, as one might say, with an hermetically 
sealed existence of its own, and separated from real life by an 
impassable gulf. It sets us free from reality, extinguishes our 
normal memory of it and places us in another world and in a 
quite other life-story which in essentials has nothing to do 
with our real one. . . .’ Hildebrandt goes on to show how whe^i* 
we fall asleep our whole being with all its forms of existence 
‘disappears, as it were, through an invisible trap-door’. Then, 
perhaps, the dreamer may make a sea-voyage to St. Helena 
in order to offer Napoleon, who is a prisoner there, a choice 
bargain in Moselle wines. He is received most affably by the 
ex-Emperor and feels almost sorry when he wakes and the 
interesting illusion is destroyed. But let us compare the situa- 
tion in the dream, proceeds Hildebrandt, with reality. The 
dreamer has never been a wine-merchant and has never wished 
to be. He has never gone on a sea-voyage, and if he did, 
St. Helena would be the last place he would choose to go to. He 
nourishes no sympathetic feelings whatever towards Napoleon, 
but on the contrary a fierce patriotic hatred. And, on top of all 
the mind being thus more intent upon that pursuit, it is generally the 
same things that we seem to encounter in dreams: pleaders to plead their 
cause and collate laws, generals to contend and engage batde . . .’ 
(Rouse’s translation in the Loeb Classical Library, 1924, 317.)] 

^ [‘Then especially do the remnants of our waking thoughts and deeds 
move and stir within the soul.' (Falconer’s translation in the Loeb 
Classical Library, 1922, 527.)] 


the rest, the dreamer was not even born when Napoleon died 
on the island; so that to have any personal relations with 
him was beyond the bounds of possibility. Thus the dream- 
experience appears as something alien inserted between two 
sections of life which are perfectly continuous and consistent 
with each other. 

‘And yet’j continues^ Hildebrandt [ibid., 10] ‘what appears 
to be the contrary of this is equally true and correct. In spite of 
everything, the most intimate relationship goes hand in hand, 
I believe, with the seclusion and separation. We may even go 
so far as to say that whatever dreams may offer, they derive 
their material from reality and from the intellectual life that 
revolves around that reality. . . . Whatever strange results they 
may achieve, they can never in fact get free from the real world; 
and their most sublime as well as their most ridiculous struc- 
tures must always borrow their basic material either from what 
has passed before our eyes in the world of the senses or from what 
has already found a place somewhere in the course of our 
waking thoughts — in other words from what we have already 
experienced either externally or internally.’ 



All the material making up the conterft of a dream is in some 
way derived from experience, that is to say, has been repro- 
duced or remembered in the dream — so much at least we niay 
regard as an undisputed fact. But it would be a mistake to 
suppose that a connection of this kind between the content of 
a dream and reality is bound to come to light easily, as an 
immediate result of comparing them. The connection requires, 
on the contrary, to be looked for diligently, and in a whole 
quantity of cases it may long remain hidden. The reason for 
this lies in a number of peculiarities which are exhibited by the 
faculty of memory in dreams and which, though generally re- 
marked upon, have hitherto resisted explanation. It will be 
worth while to examine these characteristics more closely. 

It may happen that a piece of material occurs in the content 
of a dream which in the waking state we do not recognize as" 
forming a part of our knowledge or experience. We remember, 
of course, having dreamt the thing in question, but we cannot 
remember whether or when we experienced it in real life. We 
are thus left in doubt as to the source which has been drawn 
upon by the dream and are tempted to believe that dreams have 
a power of independent production. Then at last, often after a 
long interval, some fresh experience recalls the lost memory of 
the other event and at the same time reveals the source of the 
dream. We are thus driven to admit that in the dream we knew 
and remembered something which was beyond the reach of our 
waking memory.^ 

'"A" particularly striking example of this is given by Delboeuf 
[1885, 107 ff.] from his own experience. He saw in a dream the 
courtyard of his house covered with snow and found two small 
lizards half-frozen and buried under it. Being an animal-lover, 
he picked them up, warmed them and carried them back to the 

^ [Footnote added 1914 :] Vaschide ( 191 1 ) remarks that it has often been 
observed that in dreams people speak foreign languages more fluently 
and correctly than in waking life. 

> 11 



little hole in the masonry where they belonged. He further 
gave them a few leaves of a small fern which grew on the wall 
and of which, as he knew, they were very fond. In the dream he 
knew the name of the plant: Asplenium ruia muralis. The dream 
proceeded and, after a digression, came back to the lizards. 
Dclboeuf then saw to his astonishment two new ones which 
were busy on the remains of the fern. He then looked round 
him and saw a fifth and then a sixth lizard making their way 
to the hole in the wall, until the whole roadway was filled with 
a procession of lizards, all moving in the same direction . . . 
and so on. 

When he was awake, Dclboeuf knew the Latin names of very 
few plants and an Asplenium was not among them. To his great 
surprise he was able to confirm the fact that a fern of this name 
actually exists. Its correct name is Asplenium ruta muraria, which 
had been slightly distorted in the dream. It was hardly possible 
that this could be a coincidence; and it remained a mystery to 
Dclboeuf how he had acquired his knowledge of the name 
^Asplenium' in his dream. 

The dream occurred in 1862. Sixteen years later, while the 
philosopher was on a visit to one of his friends, he saw a little 
"album of pressed flowers of the sort that are sold to foreigners 
as mementos in some parts of Switzerland. A recollection began 
to dawn on him — he opened the herbarium, found the Asplenium 
of his dream and saw its Latin name written underneath it in 
his own handwriting. The facts could now be established. In 
1860 (two years before the lizard dream) a sister of this same 
friend had visited Delbosuf on her honeymoon. She had with 
her the album, which was to be a gift to her brother, and 
Delbceuf took the trouble to write its Latin name under each 
dried plant, at the dictation of a botanist. 

Good luck, which made this example so well worth recording, 
enabled Delbceuf to trace yet another part of the content of the 
dream to its forgotten source. One day in 1877 he happened to 
take up an old volume of an illustrated periodical and in it he 
found a picture of the whole procession of lizards which he had 
dreamed of in 1862. The volume was dated 1861 and Delbceuf 
remembered having been a subscriber to the paper from its 
first number. 

1 The fact that dreams have at their command memories 
I which are inaccessible in waking life is so remarkable and of 



such theoretical importance that I should like to draw still more 
attention to it by relating some further ‘hypermnesic’ dreams. 
Maury [1878, 142] tells us how for some time the word 
‘Mussidan’ kept coming into his head during the day. He knew 
nothing about it except that it was the name of a town in 
France. One night he dreamt that he was talking to someone 
who told him he came from Mussidan, arid who, on being asked 
where that was, replied that it was a small town in the Depart- 
ment of Dordogne. When he woke up, Maury had no belief in 
the information given him in the dream ; he learnt from a gazet- 
teer, however, that it was perfectly correct. In this case the 
fact of the dream’s superior knowledge was confirmed, but the 
forgotten source of that knowledge was not discovered. 

Jessen (1855, 551) reports a very similar event in a dream 
dating from remoter times; ‘To this class belongs among others 
a dream of the elder Scaliger (quoted by Hennings, 1784, 300) 
who wrote a poem in praise of the famous men of Verona. A 
man who called himself Brugnolus appeared to him in a dream 
and complained that he had been overlooked. Although 
Scaliger could not remember having ever heard of him, he 
wrote some verses on him. His son learnt later in Verona that 
someone named Brugnolus had in fact been celebrated there- “ 
as a critic.’ 

The Marquis d’Hervey de St. Denys [1867, 305],^ quoted by 
Vaschide (1911, 232 f.), describes a hypermnesic dream which 
has a special peculiarity, for it was followed by another dream 
which completed the recognition of what was at first an un- 
identified memory: ‘I once dreamt of a young woman with 
golden hair, whom I saw talking to my sister while show- 
ing her some embroidery. She seemed very familiar to me 
in the dream and I thought I had seen her very often before. 
After I woke up, I still had her face very clearly before me but I 
was totally unable to recognize it. I then went to sleep once 
more and the dream-picture was repeated. . . . But in this 
second dream I spoke to the fair-haired lady and asked her if I 
had not had the pleasure of meeting her before somewhere. “Of 
course,” she replied, “don’t you remember ihc plage at Pornic?” 

I immediately woke up again and I was then able to recollect 
clearly all the deteuls associated with the attractive vision in 
the dream.’ 

^ [This paragraph and the next were added in 1914.] , 


The same author [ibid., 306] (quoted again by Vaschide, 
ibid., 233-4) tells how a musician of his acquaintance once 
heard in a di'eam a tunc which seemed to him entirely new. 
It was not until several years later that he found the same tune 
in an old collected volume of musical pieces, though he still 
could not remember ever having looked through it before. 

I understand that Myers [1892] has published a whole col- 
lection of hypermnesic dreams of this kind in the Proceedings of 
the Society for Psychical Research; but these are unluckily 
inaccessible to me. 

No one who occupies himself with dreams can, I believe, fail 
to discover that it is a very common event for a dream to give 
evidence of knowledge and memories which the waking subject 
is unaware of possessing. In my psycho-analytic work with 
nervous patients, of which I shall speak later, I am in a position 
several times a week to prove to patients from their dreams that 
they are really quite familiar with quotations, obscene words 
and so on, and make use of them in their dreams, though they 
have forgotten them in their waking life. I will add one more 
innocent case of hypermnesia in a dream, because of the great 
ease with which it was possible to trace the source of the 
-knowledge that was accessible only in the dream. 

One of my patients dreamt in the course of a fairly lengthy 
dream that he had ordered a ‘Kontuszdwka’ while he was in a 
caf6. After telling me this, he asked me what a ‘Kontuszdwka' 
was, as he had never heard the name. I was able to tell him in 
reply that it was a Polish liqueur, and that he could not have 
invented the name as it had long been familiar to me from 
advertisements on the hoardings. At first he would not believe 
me; but some days later, after making his dream come true in 
a cafe, he noticed the name on a hoarding at a street corner 
which he must have gone past at least twice a day for several 

I have noticed myself ^ from my own dreams how much it 
is a matter of chance whether one discovers the source of par- 
ticular elements of a dream. Thus, for several years before com- 
pleting this book, I was pursued by the picture of a church 
tower of very simple design, which I could not remember ever 
having seen. Then I suddenly recognized it, with absolute 
certainty, at a small station on the line between Salzburg and 
^ [This paragraph was added in 1909.] 



Reichenhall. That was during the second half of the eighteen- 
nineties and I had travelled over the line for the first time in 
1886. During later years, when I was already deeply absorbed 
in the study of dreams, the frequent recurrence in my dreams 
of the picture of a particular unusual-looking place became a 
positive nuisance to me. In a specific spatial relation to myself, 
on my left-hand side, I saw a dark space out of which there 
glimmered a number of grotesque sandstone figures. A faint 
recollection, which I was unwilling to credit, told me it was 
the entrance to a beer-cellar. But I failed to discover either the 
meaning of the dream-picture or its origin. In 1907 I happened 
to be in Padua, which, to my regret, I had not been able to 
visit since 1895. My first visit to that lovely University town 
had been a disappointment, as I had not been able to see 
Giotto’s frescoes in the Madonna dell’ Arena. I had turned back 
half-way along the street leading there, on being told that the 
chapel was closed on that particular day. On my second visit, 
twelve years later, I decided to make up for this and the first 
thing I did was to set off towards the Arena chapel. In the 
street leading to it, on my left-hand side as I walked along and 
in all probability at the point at which I had turned back in 
1895, 1 came upon the place I had seen so often in my dreams j 
with the sandstone figures that formed part of it. It was in 
fact the entrance to the garden of a restaurant. 

One of the sources from which dreams derive material for 
reproduction — material which is in part neither remembered 
nor used in the activities of waking thought — is childhood i^- 
perience. I will quote only a few of the authors who have 
libficed and stressed this fact. 

Hildebrandt (1875, 23): T have already expressly admitted 
that dreams sometimes bring back to our minds, with a wonder- 
ful power of reproduction, very remote and even forgotten 
events from our earliest years.’ 

Striimpell (1877, 40) : ‘The position is even more remarkable 
when we observe how dreams sometimes bring to light, as it 
were, from beneath the deepest piles of debris under which the 
earliest experiences of youth are buried in later times, pietures 
of particular localities, things or people, completely intact and 
with all their original freshness. This is not limited to experi- 
ences which created a lively impression when they occurred pr 


enjoy a high degree of psychical importance and return later 
in a dream as genuine recollections at which waking con- 
sciousness will rejoice. On the contrary, the depths of memory 
in dreams also include pictures of people, things, localities and 
events dating from the earliest times, which either never pos- 
sessed any psychical importance or more than a slight degree 
of vividness, or which have long since lost what they may have 
possessed of either, and which consequently seem completely 
alien and unknown alike to the dreaming and waking mind 
till their earlier origin has been discovered.’ 

"~^Volkelt (1875, 119): ‘It is especially remarkable how readily 
memories of childhood and youth make their way into dreams. 
Dreams are continually reminding us of things which we have 
ceased to think of and which have long ceased to be important 
to us.’ 

Since dreams have material from childhood at their com- 
mand, and since, as we all know, that material is for the most 
part blotted out by gaps in our conscious faculty of memory, 
these circumstances give rise to interesting hypermnesic dreams, 
of which I will once more give a few examples. 

Maury (1878, 92) relates how when he was a child he used 
'often to go from Meaux, which was his birthplace, to the 
neighbouring village of Trilport, where his father was super- 
intending the building of a bridge. One night in a dream he 
found himself in Trilport ^md was once more playing in the 
village street. A man came up to him who was wearing a sort 
of uniform. Mauiy asked him his name and he replied that he 
was called C. and was a watchman at the bridge. Maury awoke 
feeling sceptical as to the correctness of the memory, and asked 
an old maid-servant, who had been with him since his child- 
hood, whether she could remember a man of that name. ‘Why, 
yes,’ was the reply, ‘he was the watchman at the bridge when 
your father was building it.’ 

Maury (ibid., 143-4) gives another equally well corroborated 
example of the accuracy of a memory of childhood emerging 
in a dream. It was dreamt by a Monsieur F., who as a child 
had lived at Montbrison. Twenty-five years after leaving it, he 
decided to revisit his home and some friends of the family whom 
he had not since met. During the night before his departure 
he dreamt that he was already at Montbrison and, near the 
town, met a gentleman whom he did not know by sight but 



who told him he was Monsieur T., a friend of his father’s. The 
dreamer was aware that when he was a child he had known 
someone of that name, but in his waking state no longer re- 
membered what he looked like. A few days later he actually 
reached Montbi-ison, found the locality which in his dream 
had seemed unknown to him, and there met a gentleman whom 
he at once recognized as the Monsieur T. in the dream. The 
real person, however, looked much older than he had appeared 
in the dream. 

At this point I may mention a dream of my own, in which 
what had to be traced was not an impression but a connection. 
I had a dream of someone who I knew in my dream was the 
doctor in my native town. His face was indistinct, but was con- 
fused with a picture of one of the masters at my secondary 
school, whom I still meet occasionally. When I woke up I could 
not discover what connection there was between these two men. 
I made some enquiries from my mother, however, about this 
doctor who dated back to the earliest years of my childhood, 
and learnt that he had only one eye. The schoolmaster whose 
figure had covered that of the doctor in the dream, was also 
one-eyed. It was thirty-eight years since I had seen the doctor, 
and so far as I know I had never thought of him in my waking 
life, though a scar on my chin might have reminded me of his 

A number of writers, on the other hand, assert that elements 
are to be found in most dreams, which are derived from the 
very last few days before they were dreamt; and this sounds like 
an attempt to counterbalance the laying of too much weight 
upon the part played in dream-life by experiences in childhood. 
Thus Robert (1886, 46) actually declares that normal dreams 
are as a rule concerned only with the impressions of the past 
few days. We shall find, however, that the theory of dreams con- 
structed by Robert makes it essential for him to bring forward 

^ [The last clause of this sentence was added in 1909, appears in all 
later editions up to 1922, but was afterwards omitted. The reference to 
this same man on p. 275 below only makes sense if it alludes to this 
omitted clause. The accident that caused the scar is mentioned in the 
disguised autobiographical case history in Freud (1899a), and the event 
itself is probably described below on p. 560. This dream plays an impar-r 
tant part in a letter to Fliess of October 15, 1897 (Freud, 1950a, Letter 
71); it is also described in Freud, 1916-17, Lecture 13.] 

I.D. — ^iv. 



the most recent impressions and leave the oldest out of sight. 
None the less the fact stated by him remains correct, as I 
am able to confirm from my own investigations. An American 
writer, Nelson [1888, 380 f.] is of the opinion that the impres- 
sions most frequently employed in a dream arise from the day 
next but one before the dream occurs, or from the day preceding 
that one — as though the impressions of the day immediately before 
the dream were not sufficiently attenuated or remote. 

Several writers who are anxious not to cast doubts on the 
intimate connection between the content of dreams and waking 
life have been struck by the fact that impressions with which 
waking thoughts are intensely occupied only appear in dreams 
after they have been pushed somewhat aside by the workings 
of daytime thought. Thus, after the death of someone dear to 
them, people do not as a rule dream of him to begin with, while 
they are overwhelmed by grief (Delage, 1891, [40]). On the 
other hand one of the most recent observers. Miss Hallam 
(Hallam and Weed, 1896, 410-11), has collected instances to 
the contrary, thus asserting the right of each of us to psycho- 
logical individualism in this respect. 

The third, most striking and least comprehensible character- 
istic of memory in dreams is shown in the e^oiee of material re- 
produced. For what is found worth remembering is not, as in 
waking life, only what is most important, but on the contrary 
what is most indifferent and insignificant as well. On this point 
I will quote those writers who have given the strongest expres- 
sion to their astonishment. 

Hildebrandt (1875, 11): ‘For the remarkable thing is that 
dreams derive their elements not from major and stirring events 
nor the powerful and compelling interests of the preceding day, 
but from incidental details, from the worthless fragments, one 
might say, of what has been recently experienced or of the 
remoter past. A family bereavement, which has moved us 
deeply and under whose immediate shadow we have fallen 
asleep late at night, is blotted out of our memory till with our 
first waking moment it returns to it again with disturbing 
violence. On the other hand, a wart on the forehead of a 
stranger whom we met in the street and to whom we gave no 
second thought after passing him Aas a part to play in our 
dream. . . .’ 



Striimpell (1877, 39): ‘There are cases in which the analysis, 
of a dream shows that some of its components are indeed de- 
rived from experiences of the previous day or its predecessor, 
but experiences so unimportant and trivial from the point of 
view of waking consciousness that they were forgotten soon 
after they occurred. Experiences of this kind include, for 
instance, remarks accidentally overheard, or another person’s 
actions inattentively observed, or passing glimpses of people or 
things, or odd fragments of what one has read, and so on.’ 

Havelock Ellis (1899, 727): ‘The profound emotions of wak- 
ing life, the questions and problems on which we spread our 
chief voluntary mental energy, are not those which usually 
present themselves at once to dream consciousness. It is, so far 
as the immediate past is concerned, mostly the trifling, the 
incidental, the “forgotten” impressions of daily life which re- 
appear in our dreams. The psychic activities that are awake 
most intensely are those that sleep most profoundly.’ 

Binz (1878, 44-5) actually makes this particular peculiarity 
of memory in dreams the occasion for expressing his dissatis- 
faction with the explanations of dreams which he himself has 
supported; ‘And the natural dream raises similar problems. 
Why do we not always dream of the mnemic impressions of the 
day we have just lived through? Why do we often, without any 
apparent motive, plunge instead into the remote and almost 
extinct past? Why does consciousness so often in dreams receive 
the impression of indifferent memory-images, while the brain- 
cells, just where they carry the most sensitive marks of what 
has been experienced, lie for the most part silent and still, 
unless they have been stirred into fresh activity shortly before, 
during waking life?’ 

It is easy to see how the remarkable preference shown by the 
memory in dreams for indifferent, and consequently unnoticed, 
elements in waking experience is bound to lead people to over- 
look in general the dependence of dreams upon waldng life and 
at all events to make it difficult in any particular instance to 
prove that dependence. Thus Miss Whiton Calkins (1893, 315), 
in her statistical study of her own and her collaborator’s 
dreams, found that in eleven per cent of the total there was no 
visible connection with waking life. Hildebrandt (1875, [12 f.]) 
is unquestionably right in asserting that we should be able to 
explain the genesis of every dream-image if we devoted enough 


time and trouble to tracing its origin. He speaks of this as ‘an 
exceedingly laborious and thankless task. For as a rule it ends 
in hunting out every kind of utterly worthless psychical event 
from the remotest corners of the chambers of one’s memory, 
and in dragging to light once again every kind of completely 
indifferent moment of the past from the oblivion in which it 
was buried in the ver/ hour, perhaps, after it occurred.’ I can 
only regret that this keen-sighted author allowed himself to be 
deterred from following the path which had this inauspicious 
beginning; if he had followed it, it would have led him to the 
very heart of the explanation of dreams. 

The way in which the memory behaves in dreams is un- 
doubtedly of the greatest importance for any theory of memory 
in general." It teaches us that ‘nothing which we have once 
mentally possessed can be entirely lost’ (Scholz, 1893, 59); or, 
as Delboeuf [1885, 115] puts it, ‘que toute impression meme 
la plus insignifiante, laisse une trace inalterable, indefiniment 
susceptible de reparaitre au jour*. ^ This is a conclusion to which 
we are also driven by many pathological phenomena of mental 
life. Certain theories about dreams which we shall mention 
later seek to account for their absurdity and incoherence by a 
partial forgetting of what we know during the day. When we 
bear in mind the extraordinary efficiency that we have just 
seen exhibited by memory in dreams we shall have a lively 
sense of the contradiction which these theories involve. 

It might perhaps occur to us that the phenomenon of 
dreaming could be reduced entirely to that of memory: dreams, 
it might be supposed, are a manifestation of a reproductive 
activity which is at work even in the night and which is an end 
in itself. This would tally with statements such as those made 
by Pilcz [1899), according to which there is a fixed relation 
observable between the time at which a dream occurs and its 
content — ^impressions from the remotest past being reproduced 
in dreams during deep sleep, while more recent impressions 
appear towards morning. But views of this sort are iiiherently 
improbable owing to the manner in which dreams deal with the 
material that is to be remembered. Striimpell [1877, 18] rightly 
points out that dreams do not reproduce experiences. They 

^ [‘That even the most insigniEcant impression leaves an unalterable 
trace, which is indefinitely capable of revival.’] 


take one step forward, but the next step in the chain is omitted, 
or appears in an altered form, or is replaced by something 
entirely extraneous. Dreams yield no more fragments of 
reproductions; and this is so general a rule that theoretical con- 
clusions may be based on it. It is true that there are exceptional 
cases in which a dream repeats an experience with as much 
completeness as is attainable by our waldng memory. Delbceuf 
[1885, 239 f.] tells how one of his university colleagues ^ had a 
dream which reproduced in all its details a dangerous carriage- 
accident he had had, with an almost miraculous escape. Miss 
Galkins (1893) mentions two dreams whose content was an 
exact reproduction of an event of the previous day, and I shall 
myself have occasion later to report an example I came across 
of a childhood experience re-appearing in a dream without 
modification. [See pp. 189 and 198.]* 

^ [In the first edition the words ‘who is now teaching in Vienna’ 
appeared here but they were cut out in 1909. In Ges. Schr. 3 (1925), 8, 
Freud remarks that ‘the words were no doubt rightly omitted, especially 
as the man in question had died’.] 

* \FootnoU added 1909:] Subsequent experience leads me to add that it 
by no means rarely happens that innocent and unimportant actions of 
the previous day are repeated in a dream: such, for instance, as packing 
a tnmk, preparing food in the kitchen, and so on. What the dreamer is 
himself stressing in dreams of this kind is not, however, the content of 
the memory but the fact of its being ‘real’ : ‘I really did do all that yester- 
day.’ [Cf. below pp. 187 and 372. The topics discussed in this and the 
preceding section are taken up again in the first two sections of 
Chapter V (p. 163 ff.).] 



There is a popular -saying that ‘dreams come from indiges- 
tion’ and this helps us to see what is meant by the stimuli 
and sources of dreams. Behind these concepts lies a theory 
according to which dreams are a result of a (Bsturbance of 
sleep: we should not have had a dream unless something dis- 
turbing had happened during our sleep, and the dream was a 
reaction to that disturbance. 

Discussions upon the exciting causes of dreams occupy a very 
large space in the literature of the subject. The problem could 
obviously only arise after dreams had become a subject of bio- 
logical investigation. The ancients, who believed that dreams 
were inspired by the gods, had no need to look around for their 
stimulus: dreams emanated from the will of divine or daemonic 
powers and their content arose from the knowledge or purpose 
of those powers. Science was immediately faced by the question 
of whether the stimulus to dreaming was always the same or 
whether there could be many kinds of such stimuli; and this 
invoK'cd the consideration of whether the explanation of the 
causation of dreams fell within the province of psychology or 
rather of physiologv'. Most authorities seem to agree in assuming 
that the causes that disturb sleep — that is, the sources of dream- 
ing — may be of many kinds and that somatic stimuli and 
mental excitations alike may come to act as instigators of 
dreams. Opinions differ widely, however, in the preference they 
show for one or the other source of dreams and in the order of 
importance which they assign to them as factors in the pro- 
duction of dreams. 

Any complete enumeration of the sources of dreams leads to 
a recognition of four kinds of source; and these have also been 
used for the classification of dreams themselves. They are: (1) 
external (objective) sensory excitations; (2) internal (subjective) 
sensory excitations; (3) internal (organic) somatic stimuli; and 
(4) purely psychical sources of stimulation. 




1. External Sensory Stimuli 

The younger StrUmpell [1883-4; Engl, trans. (1912), 2, 160], 
the son of the philosopher whose book on dreams has already 
given us several hints upon their problems, published a well- 
known account of his observations upon one of his patients who 
was afflicted with general anaesthesia of .the surface of his body 
and paralysis of several of his higher sense organs. If the few of 
this man’s sensory channels which remained open to the external 
world were closed, he would fall asleep. Now when we our- 
selves wish to go to sleep we are in the habit of trying to produce 
a situation similar to that of Striimpell’s experiment. We close 
our most important sensory channels, our eyes, and try to pro- 
tect the other senses from all stimuli or from any modification 
of the stimuli acting on them. We then fall asleep, even though 
our plan is never completely realized. We cannot keep stimuli 
completely away from our sense organs nor can we completely 
suspend the excitability of our sense organs. The fact that a 
fairly powerful stimulus will awaken us at any time is evidence 
that ‘even in sleep the soul is in constant contact with the extra- 
corporeal world’. ^ The sensory stimuli that reach us during 
sleep may very well become sources of dreams. 

Now there are a great number of such stimuli, ranging from 
the unavoidable ones which the state of sleep itself necessarily 
involves or must tolerate from time to time, to the accidental, 
rousing stimuli which may or do put an end to sleep. A bright 
light may force its way into our eyes, or a noise may make itself 
heard, or some strong-smelling substance may stimulate the 
mucous membrane of our nose. By unintentional movements 
during our sleep we may uncover some part of our body and 
expose it to sensations of chill, or by a change in posture we 
may ourselves bring about sensations of pressure or contact. We 
may be stung by a gnat, or some small mishap during the night 
may impinge upon several of our senses at once. Attentive 
observers have collected a whole series of dreams in which there 
has been such a far-reaching correspondence between a stimulus 
noticed on waking and a portion of the content of the dream 
that it has been possible to identify the stimulus as the source of 
the dream. 

I will quote from Jessen (1855, 527 f.) a collection of dreams 
1 [Of. Burdach’s remarks on p. 52 f.] 


of this kind which may be traced back to objective, and more 
or less accidental, sensory stimulation. 

‘Every noise tliat is indistinctly perceived arouses correspond- 
ing (ffeain-images. 'A peal of thunder will set us in the midst of 
a battle; the crowng of a cock may turn into a man’s cry 
of terror; the creaking of a door may produce a dream of 
burglars. If our bed-clpthes fall off in the night, we may dream, 
perhaps, of walking about naked or of falling into water. If 
we are lying cross-wise in bed and push our feet over the 
edge, we may dream that we are standing on the brink of a 
frightful precipice or that we are falling over a cliff. If our head 
happens to get under the pillow, we dream of being beneath a 
huge overhanging rock which is on the point of burying us 
under its weight. Accumulations of semen lead to lascivious 
dreams, local pains produce ideas of being ill-treated, attacked 
or injured. . . . 

‘Meier (1758, 33) once dreamt that he was overpowered by 
some men who stretched him out on his back on the ground and 
drove a stake into the earth between his big toe and the next 
one. While he was imagining this in the dream he woke up and 
found that a straw was sticking between his toes. On another 
occasion, according to Hennings (1784, 258), when Meier had 
fastened his shirt rather tight round his neck, he dreamt that he 
was being hanged. Hoffbauer [(1796, 146)] dreamt when he 
was a young man of falling down from a high wall, and when 
he woke up found that his bedstead had collapsed and that he 
had really fallen on to the floor. . . . Gregory reports that once, 
when he was lying with his feet on a hot-water-bottle, he 
dreamt he had climbed to the top of Mount Etna and that the 
ground there was intolerably hot. Another man, who was sleep- 
ing with a hot poultice on his head, dreamt that he was being 
scalped by a band of Red Indians; while a third, who was 
wearing a damp night-shirt, imagined that he was being 
dragged through a stream. An attack of gout that came on 
suddenly during sleep caused the patient to believe he was in 
the hands of the Inquisition and being tortured on the rack. 
(Macnish [1835, 40].)’ 

The argument based on the similarity between the stimulus 
and the content of the dream gains in strength if it is possible 
deliberately to convey a sensory stimulus to the sleeper and pro- 
duce in him a dream corresponding to that stimulus. Accor^ng 


to Macnish (loc, cit.), quoted byjessen (1855, 529), experiments 
of this sort had already been made by Girou de Buzareingues 
[1848, 55]. ‘He left his knee uncovered and dreamt that he was 
travelling at night in a mail coach. He remarks upon this that 
travellers will no doubt be aware how cold one’s knees become 
at night in a coach. Another time he left his head uncovered at 
the back and dreamt that he was taking part in a religious 
ceremony in the open air. It must be explained that in the 
country in which he lived it was the custom always to keep 
the head covered except in circumstances such as these.’ 

Maury (1878, [154-6]) brings forward some new observa- 
tions of dreams produced in himself. (A number of other 
experiments were unsuccessful.) 

(1) His lips and the tip of his nose were tickled with a 
feather. — He dreamt of a frightful form of torture: a mask 
made of pitch was placed on his face and then pulled off, so 
that it took his skin off with it. 

(2) A pair of scissors was sharpened on a pair of pliers. — He 
heard bells pealing, followed by alarm-bells, and he was back 
in the June days of 1848. 

(3) He was given some eau-de-cologne to smell. — He was in 
Cairo, in Johann Maria Farina’s shop. Some absurd adventures 
followed, which he could not reproduce. 

(4) He was pinched lightly on tlie neck. — He dreamt he was 
being given a mustard plaster and thought of the doctor who 
had treated him as a child. 

(5) A hot iron w'as brought close to his face. — He dreamt 
that the 'chauffeurs'^ had made their way into the house and 
were forcing its inhabitants to give up their money by sticking 
their feet into braziers of hot coal. The Duchess of Abrantfes, 
whose secretary he was in the dream, then appeared. 

(8) A drop of water was dropped on his forehead. — He was 
in Italy, was sweating violently and was drinking white Orvieto 

(9) Light from a candle was repeatedly shone upon him 
through a sheet of red paper. — He dreamt of the weather and 
of the heat, and was once again in a storm he had experienced 
in the English Channel. 

^ The 'chauffeurs' [heaters] were bands of robbers in La Vend6e [at 
the time of the French Revolution], who made use of the method of 
torture described above. * 


Other attempts at producing dreams experimentally have 
been reported by Hervey de Saint-Denys [1867, 268 f. and 
376 f.], Weygandt (1893) and others. 

Many writers have commented upon ‘the striking facility 
with which dreams are able to weave a sudden impression from 
the world of the senses into their own structure so that it comes 
as what appears to be a pre-arranged catastrophe that has been 
gradually led up to.’ (Hildebrandt, 1875, [36].) ‘In iny youth’, 
this author goes on, ‘I used to make use of an alarm-clock in 
order to be up regularly at a fixed hour. It must have happened 
hundreds of times that the noise produced by this instrument 
fitted into an ostensibly lengthy and connected dream as though 
the whole dream had been leading up to that one event and had 
reached its appointed end in what was a logically indispensable 
climax.’ [Ibid., 37.] 

I shall quote three of these alarm-clock dreams presently in 
another connection. [P. 27 f.] 

Volkelt (1875, 108 f.) writes: ‘A composer once dreamt that 
he was giving a class and was trying to make a point clear to 
his pupils. When he had done, he turned to one of the boys and 
asked him if he had followed. The boy shouted back like a 
lunatic: “Ohja! [Oh yes!]” He began to reprove the boy angrily 
for shouting, but the whole class broke out into cries first of 
“Orja!”, then of “Eurjo!” and finally of “Feuerjo!”^ At this 
point he was woken up by actual cries of “Feuerjo!” in the 

Gamier (1865, [1, 476]) tells how Napoleon I was woken by 
a bomb-explosion while he was asleep in his carriage. He had 
a dream that he was once more crossing the Tagliamento under 
the Austrian bombardment, and at last started up with a cry: 
‘We are undermined!’* 

A dream dreamt by Maury (1878, 161) has become famous. 
He was ill and lying in his room in bed, vrith his mother sitting 
beside him, and dreamt that it was during the Reign of Terror. 
After witnessing a number of frightful scenes of murder, he was 
finally himself brought before the revolutionary tribunal. There 
he saw Robespierre, Marat, Fouquier-Tinville and the rest of 
the grim heroes of those terrible days. He was questioned by 

* [The first two of these last three exclamations are meaningless; the 
third is the conventional cry for an alarm of fire.] 

’ [Further considered below on pp. 233 f. and 497 f.] 



them, and, after a number of incidents which were not retained 
in his memory, was condemned, and led to the place of execu- 
tion surrounded by an immense mob. He climbed on to the 
scaffold and was bound to the plank by the executioner. It was 
tipped up. The blade of the guillotine fell. He felt his head 
being separated from his body, woke up in extreme anxiety — 
and found that the top of the bed had fallen down and ^d 
struck his cervical vertebrae just in the way in which the blade 
of the guillotine would actually have struck them. 

This dream was the basis of an interesting discussion between 
Le Lorrain (1894) and Egger (1895) in the Revue philosophique. 
The question raised was whether and how it was possible 
for a dreamer to compress such an apparently superabundant 
quantity of material into the short period elapsing between his 
perceiving the rousing stimulus and his waking.^ 

Examples of this kind leave an impression that of all the 
sources of dreams the best confirmed are objective sensory 
stimuli during sleep. Moreover tliey are the only sources what- 
ever taken into account by laymen. If an educated man, who is 
unacquainted with the literature of dreams, is asked how dreams 
arise, he will infallibly answer with a reference to some instance 
he has come across in which a dream was explained by an objec- 
tive sensory stimulus discovered after waking. Scientific enquiry, 
however, cannot stop there. It finds an occasion for further 
questions in the observed fact that the stimulus which impinges 
on the senses during sleep does not appear in the dream in its 
reed shape but is replaced by another image in some way related 
to it. But the relation connecting the stimulus of the dream to 
the dream which is its result is, to quote Maury’s words (1854, 
12), ‘une affinite quelconque, mais qui n’est pas unique et 
exclusive.’* Let us consider in this connection three of Hilde- 
brandt’s alarm-clock dreams (1875, 37 f.). The question they 
raise is why the same stimulus should have provoked three such 
different dreams and why it should have provoked these rather 
than any other. 

T dreamt, then, that one spring morning I was going for a 
walk and was strolling through the green fields till I came to a 
neighbouring village, where I saw the villagers in their best 

* [Further discussed below, pp. 64 and 496 f.] 

* [‘An affini ty of some kind, but one which is not unique and 

exclusive.’] • 


in with the element experimentally introduced from outside. 
Indeed, one begins to have doubts about the illusion theory and 
about the power of objective impressions to give a shape to 
dreams when one finds that those impressions are sometimes 
subjected in dreams to the most peculiar and far-fetched inter- 
pretations. Thus Simon (1888) tells us of a dream in which he 
saw some gigantic figures seated at table and clearly heard the 
frightful snapping noise made by their jaws coming together as 
they chewed. When he awoke he heard the beat of a horse’s 
hooves galloping past his window. The noise made by the 
horse’s hooves may have suggested ideas from a group of 
memories connected with Gulliver's Travels — the giants of Brob- 
dingnag and the virtuous Houyhnhnms — if I may venture on 
an interpretation without the dreamer’s assistance. Is it not 
probable, then, that the choice of such an unusual group of 
memories as these was facilitated by motives other than the 
objective stimulus alone? ^ 

2. Internal (Subjective) Sensory Excitations 

In spite of any objections to the contrary, it has to be 
admitted that the part played by objective sensory excitations 
during sleep in provoking dreams remains indisputable. And if 
such stimuli may appear, from their nature and frequency, 
insufficient to explain eveiy dream-image, we shall be encour- 
aged to seek for other sources of dreams analogous to them in 
their operation. I cannot say when the idea first cropped up of 
taking internal (subjective) excitations of the sense organs into 
account alongside of the external sensory stimuli. It is, however, 
the case that this is done, more or less explicitly, in all the more 
recent discussions of the aetiology of dreams. ‘An essential part is 
also played, I believe,’ writes Wundt (1874, 657), ‘in the produc- 
tion of the illusions that occur in dreams by the subjective visual 
and auditory sensations which are familiar to us in the waking 
state as the formless areas of luminosity which become visible 
to us when our field of vision is darkened, as ringing or buzzing 

^ [Footnote added 1911;] The appearance of gigantic figures in a dream 
gives grounds for supposing that some scene from the dreamer’s child- 
hood is involved. [Cf. p. 408 .] — [Added 1925 :] Incidentally, the inter- 
pretation given in the text, pointing to a reminiscence of Gulliver's 
Travels, is a good example of what an interpretation ought not to be. The 
interpreter of a dream should not give free play to his own ingenuity 
and neglect the dreamer’s associations. 



in the ears, and so on. Especially important among these are the 
subjective excitations of the retina. It is in this way that is to be 
explained the remarkable tendency of dreams to conjure up before 
the eyes similar or identical objects in large numbers. We see before 
us innumerable birds or butterflies or fishes or coloured beads 
or flowers, etc. Here tlie luminous dust in the darkened field of 
vision has taken on a fantastic shape, and the numerous specks 
of which it consists are incorporated into the dream as an equal 
number of separate images; and these, on account of their 
mobility, are regarded as moving objects. — This is no doubt also 
the basis of the great fondness shown by dreams for animal 
figures of every sort; for the immense variety of such forms 
can adjust itself easily to the particular form assumed by the 
subjective luminous images.’ 

As sources of dream-images, subjective sensory excitations 
have the obvious advantage of not being dependent, like objec- 
tive ones, upon external chance. They are ready to hand, as one 
might say, whenever they are needed as an explanation. But 
they are at a disadvantage compared with objective sensory 
stimuli in that the part they play in instigating a dream is 
scarcely or not at all open to confirmation, as is the case with 
objective stimuli, by observation and experiment. The chief 
evidence in favour of the power of subjective sensory excitations 
to instigate dreams is provided by what are known as ‘hypna- 
gogic hallucinations’, or, to use Johannes Muller’s term (1826), 
‘imaginative visual phenomena’. These are images, often very 
vivid and rapidly changing, which are apt to appear — quite 
habitually in some people — during the period of falling asleep; 
and they may also persist for a time after the eyes have been 
opened. Maury, who was subject to them in a high degree, has 
made an exhaustive examination of them and maintains (as did 
Muller [ibid., 49 f.] before him) their connection and indeed 
their identity with dream-images. In order to produce them, he 
says (Maury, 1878, 59 f.), a certain amount of mental passivity, 
a relaxation of the strain of attention, is necessary. It is enough, 
however, to fall into a lethargic state of this kind for no more 
than a second (provided that one has the necessary predis- 
position) in order to have a hypnagogic hallucination. After 
this one may perhaps wake up again and the process may be 
repeated several times until one finally falls asleep. Maury 
found that if he then woke up once more after not too long^an 


interval, he was able to detect in his dream the same images 
that had floated before his eyes as hypnagogic hallucinations 
before he fell asleep. (Ibid., 134 f.) This was the case on one 
occasion with a number of grotesque figures with distorted 
faces and strange coiffures which pestered him with extreme per- 
tinacity while he was going to sleep and which he remembered 
having dreamt about after he woke. Another time, when he was 
suffering from hunger owing to having put himself on a light 
diet, he had a hypnagogic vision of a plate and a hand armed 
with a fork which was helping itself to some of the food from the 
plate. In the dream which followed he was sitting at a well- 
spread table and heard the noise made by the diners with their 
forks. Yet another time, when he went to sleep with his eyes in 
an irritated and painful state, he had a hypnagogic hallucina- 
tion of some microscopically small signs which he could only 
decipher one by one with the greatest difficulty; he was woken 
from his sleep an hour later and remembered a dream in which 
there was an open book printed in very small type which he 
was reading painfully. 

Auditory hallucinations of words, names, and so on can 
also occur hypnagogically in the same way as visual images, 
and may then be repeated in a dream — -just as an overture 
announces the principal themes which are to be heard in the 
opera that is to follow. 

A more recent observer of hypnagogic hallucinations, 
G. Trumbull Ladd (1892), has followed the same lines as 
Muller and Maury. After some practice he succeeded in being 
able to wake himself suddenly without opening his eyes, from 
two to five minutes after gradually falling asleep. He thus had 
an opportunity of comparing the retinal sensations which were 
just disappearing with the dream-images persisting in his 
memory. He declares tliat it was possible in every case to 
recognize an internal relation between the two, for the luminous 
points and lines of the idioretinal light provided, as it were, an 
outline drawing or diagram of the figures mentally perceived in 
the dream. For instance, an arrangement of the luminous points 
in the retina in parallel lines corresponded to a dream in which 
he had been seeing, clearly spread out in front of him, some 
lines of print which he was engaged in reading. Or, to use his 
own words, ‘the clearly printed page which I was reading in 
my dream faded away into an object that appeared to my 



waking consciousness like a section of an actual page of print 
when seen through an oval hole in a piece of paper at too great 
a distance to distinguish more than an occasional fragment of a 
word, and even that dimly’. Ladd is of opinion (though he does 
not underestimate the part played in the phenomenon by 
central [cerebral] factors) that scarcely a single visual dream 
occurs without the participation of materjal provided by intra- 
ocular retinal excitation. This applies especially to dreams 
occurring soon after falling asleep in a dark room, while the 
source of stimulus for dreams occurring in the morning shortly 
before waking is the objective light which penetrates the eyes in 
a room that is growing light. The changing, perpetually shifting 
character of the excitation of the idioretinal light corresponds 
precisely to the constantly moving succession of images shown 
us by our dreams. No one who attaches importance to these 
observations of Ladd’s will underestimate the part played in 
dreams by these subjective sources of stimulation, for, as we 
know, visual images constitute the principal component of our 
dreams. The contributions from the other senses, except for that 
of hearing, are intermittent and of less importance. 

3. Internal Organic Somatic Stimuli 

Since we are now engaged in looking for sources of dreams 
inside the organism instead of outside it, we must bear in mind 
that almost all our internal organs, though they give us scarcely 
any news of their working so long as they are in a healthy state 
become a source of what are mainly distressing sensations when 
they are in what we describe as states of excitation, or during 
illnesses. These sensations must be equated with the sensory or 
painful stimuli reaching us from the outside. The experience of 
ages is reflected in — to take an example — Striimpell’s remarks 
on the subject (1877, 107): ‘During sleep the mind attains a far 
deeper and wider sensory consciousness of somatic events than 
during the waking state. It is obliged to receive and be affected 
by impressions of stimuli from parts of the body and from 
changes in the body of which it knows nothing when awake.’ 
So early a writer as Aristotle regarded it as quite possible that 
the beginnings of an illness might make themselves felt in 
dreams before anything could be noticed of it in waking life, 
owing to the magnifying effect produced upon impressions by, 
dreams. (See above, p. 3.) Medical writers, too, who were 

I.D. — IV. E 


certainly far from believing in the prophetic power of dreams, 
have not disputed their significance as premonitors of illness. 
(Cf. Simon, 1888, 31, and many earlier writers.^) 

Instances of the diagnostic power of dreams seem to be 
vouched for in more recent times. Thus Tissie (1898, 62 f.) 
quotes from Artigues (1884, 43) the story of a forty- three-year- 
old woman, who, while apparently in perfect health, was for 
some years tormented by anxiety-dreams. She was then medic- 
ally examined and found to be in the early stages of an affection 
of the heart, to which she eventually succumbed. 

Pronounced disorders of the internal organs obviously act as 
^ . instigators of dreams in a whole number of cases. The frequency 
t of anxiety-dreams in diseases of the heart and lungs is generally 
i recognized. Indeed, this side of dream-life is placed in the fore- 
'.ground by so many authorities that I am content with a mere 
reference to the literature: Radestock [1879, 70], Spitta [1882, 
241 f.], Maury [1878, 33 f.], Simon (1888), Tissie [1898, 60 ff.]. 
Tissie is even of the opinion that the particular organ affected 
gives a characteristic impress to the content of the dream. Thus 
the dreams of those suffering from diseases of the heart are 
usually short and come to a terrifying end at the moment of 
waking; their content almost always includes a situation involv- 
ing a horrible death. Sufferers from diseases of the lungs dream 
of suffocation, crowding and fleeing, and are remarkably sub- 
ject to the familiar nightmare. (It may be remarked, incident- 
ally, that Borner (1855) has succeeded in provoking the latter 
experimentally by lying on his face or covering the respiratory 

• 1 [Footnote added 1914:] Apart from the diagnostic value ascribed to 
dreams (e.g. in the works of Hippocrates [see above p. 3 n.]), their thera- 
peutic importance in antiquity must also be borne in mind. In Greece 
there were dream oracles, which were regularly visited by patients in 
search of recovery. A sick man would enter the temple of Apollo or 
Aesculapius, would perform various ceremonies there, would be purified 
by lustration, massage and incense, and then, in a state of exaltation, 
would be stretched on the skin of a ram that had been sacrificed. He 
would then fall asleep and would dream of the remedies for his illness. 
These would be revealed to him either in their natural form or in sym- 
bols and pictures which would afterwards be interpreted by the priests. 
For further information upon therapeutic dreams among the Greeks 
see Lehmann (1908, 1 , 74), Bouche-Leclercq (1879-1882), Hermann 
(1858, §41, 262 ff., and 1882, §38, 356), Bottinger (1795, 163 ff.), Lloyd 
(1877), Dollinger (1857, 130). — [A comment on the ‘diagnostic’ value 
of dreams will be found near the beginning of Freud, 1917rf.] 



apertures.) In the case of digestive disorders dreams contain 
ideas connected with enjoyment of food or disgust. Finally, the 
influence of sexual excitement on the content of dreams can be 
adequately appreciated by everyone from his own experience 
and provides the theory that dreams are instigated by organic 
stimuli with its most powerful support. 

No one, moreover, who goes through, the literature of the 
subject can fail to notice that some writers, such as Maury 
[1878, 451 f.] and Weygandt (1893), were led to the study of 
dream problems by the effect of their own illnesses upon the 
content of their dreams. 

Nevertheless, though these facts are established beyond a 
doubt, their importance for the study of the sources of dreams is 
not so great as might have been hoped. Dreams are phenomena 
which occur in healthy people — ^perhaps in everyone, perhaps 
every night — and it is obvious that organic illness cannot be 
counted among its indispensable conditions. And what we are 
concerned with is not the origin of certain special dreams but 
the source that instigates the ordinary dreams of normal people. 

We need only go a step further, however, in order to come 
upon a source of dreams more copious than any we have so far 
considered, one indeed which seems as though it could never 
run dry. If it is established that the interior of the body when 
it is in a diseased state becomes a source of stimuli for dreams, 
and if we admit that during sleep the mind, being diverted from 
the external world, is able to pay more attention to the interior 
of the body, then it seems plausible to suppose that the 
internal organs do not need to be diseased before they can 
cause excitations to reach the sleeping mind — excitations which 
are somehow turned into dream-images. While we are awsike 
we are aware of a diffuse general sensibility or coenaesthesia, 
but only as a vague quality of our mood; to this feeling, accord- 
ing to medical opinion, all the organic systems contribute a 
share. At night, however, it would seem that this same feeling, 
grown into a powerful influence and acting through its various 
components, becomes the strongest and at the same time the 
commonest source for instigating dream-images. If this is so, it 
would only remain to investigate the laws according to which 
the organic stimuli turn into dream-images. 

We have here reached the theory of the origin of dreams 
which is preferred by all the medical authorities. The obscurity 


in which the centre of our being (the ‘moi splanchnique' , as Tissie 
[1898, 23] calls it) is veiled from our knowledge and the 
obscurity surrounding the origin of dreams tally too well not to 
be brought into relation to each other. The line of thought 
which regards vegetative organic sensation as the constructor of 
dreams has, moreover, a particular attraction for medical men 
since it allows of a jingle aetiology for dreams and mental 
diseases, whose manifestations have so much in common; for 
coenaesthctic changes and stimuli arising from the internal 
organs are also held largely responsible for the origin of the 
psychoses. It is not surprising, therefore, that the origin of the 
theory of somatic stimulation may be traced back to more than 
one independent source. 

The line of argument developed by the philosopher Schopen- 
hauer in 1851 has had a decisive influence on a number of 
writers. Our picture of the universe, in his view, is arrived at 
by our intellect taking the impressions that impinge on it from 
outside and remoulding them into the forms of time, space and 
causality. During the daytime the stimuli from the interior of 
the organism, from the sympathetic nervous system, exercise at 
the most an unconscious effect upon our mood. But at night, 
when we are no longer deafened by the impressions of the day, 
those which arise from within are able to attract attention — 
just as at night we can hear the murmuring of a brook which is 
drowned by daytime noises. But how is the intellect to react to 
these stimuli otherwise than by carrying out its own peculiar 
function on them? The stimuli are accordingly remodelled into 
forms occupying space and time and obeying the rules of 
causality, and thus dreams arise [cf. Schopenhauer, 1862, 1 , 
249 ff.]. Schemer (1861) and after him Volkelt (1875) en- 
deavoured subsequently to investigate in more detail the rela- 
tion between somatic stimuli and dream-images, but I shall 
postpone my consideration of these attempts till we reach the 
section dealing with the various theories about dreams. [See 
below, p. 83 ff.] 

Krauss [1859, 255], the psychiatrist, in an investigation 
carried through with remarkable consistency, traces the origin 
alike of dreams and of deliria^ and delusions to the same factor, 
namely to organically determined sensations. It is scarcely 
possible to think of any part of the organism which might not be 
* [Perhaps ‘hallucinations’; see p. 59 n.] 



the starting point of a dream or of a delusion. Organically 
determined sensations ‘may be divided into two classes: (1) 
those constituting the general mood (coenaesthesia) and (2) the 
specific sensations immanent in the principal systems of the 
vegetative organism. Of these latter five groups are to be dis- 
tinguished: (a) muscular, {b) respiratory, (c) gastric, {d) sexual 
and (e) peripheral sensations.’ Krauss supposes that the process 
by which dream-images arise on the basis of somatic stimuli is 
as follows. The sensation that has been aroused evokes a cognate 
image, in accordance with some law of association. It combines 
with the image into an organic structure, to which, however, 
consciousness reacts abnormally. For it pays no attention to the 
sensation^ but directs the whole of it to the accompanying images 
— which explains why the true facts were for so long misunder- 
stood. Krauss has a special term for describing this process: the 
‘trans-substantiation’ of sensations into dream-images. 

The influence of organic somatic stimuli upon the formation 
of dreams is almost universally accepted to-day; but the ques- 
tion of the laws that govern tire relation between them is 
answered in very various ways, and often by obscure pro- 
nouncements. On the basis of the theory of somatic stimulation, 
dream-interpretation is thus faced with the special problem of 
tracing back the content of a dream to the organic stimuli 
which caused it; and, if the rules for interpretation laid down 
by Schemer (1861) are not accepted, one is often faced with the 
awkward fact that the only thing that reveals the existence of 
the organic stimulus is precisely the content of the dream itself. 

There is a fair amount of agreement, however, over the 
interpretation of various forms of dreams that are described as 
‘typical’, because they occur in large numbers of people and 
with very similar content. Such are the familiar dreams of 
falling from a height, of teeth falling out, of flying and of 
embarrassment at being naked or insufficiently clad. This last 
dream is attributed simply to the sleeper’s perceiving that he 
has thrown off his bedclothes in his sleep and is lying exposed 
to the air. The dream of teeth falling out is traced back to a 
‘dental stimulus’, though this does not necessarily imply that 
the excitation of the teeth is a pathological one. According to 
Strumpell [1877, 119] the flying dream is the image which is ^ 
found appropriate by the mind as an interpretation of the i 
stimulus produced by the rising and sinking of the lobes of the/ 


lungs at times when cutaneous sensations in the thorax have 
ceased to be conscious: it is this latter circumstance that leads 
to the feeling which is attached to the idea -of floating. The 
dream of falling from a height is said to be due to an arm 
falling away from the body or a flexed knee being suddenly 
extended at a time when the sense of cutaneous pressure is 
beginning to be no longer conscious; the movements in question 
cause the tactile sensations to become conscious once more, and 
the transition to consciousness is represented psychically by the 
dream of falling (ibid., 118). The obvious weakness of these 
attempted explanations, plausible though they are, lies in the 
fact that, without any other evidence, they can make successive 
hypotheses that this or that group of organic sensations enters 
or disappears from mental perception, till a constellation has 
been reached which affords an explanation of the dream. I shall 
later have occasion to return to the question of typical dreams 
and their origin. [Cf. pp. 241 ff. and 384 if.] 

Simon (1888, 34 f.) has attempted to deduce some of the 
rules governing the way in which organic stimuli detei-mine the 
resultant dreams by comparing a series of similar dreams. He 
asserts that if an organic apparatus which normally plays a part 
in the expression of an emotion is brought by some extraneous 
cause during sleep into the state of excitation which is usually 
produced by the emotion, then a dream will arise which will 
contain images appropriate to the emotion in question. Another 
rule lays it down that if during sleep an organ is in a state of 
activity, excitation or disturbance, the dream will produce 
images related to the performance of the function which is dis- 
charged by the organ concerned. 

Mourly Void (1896) has set out to prove experimentally in 
one particular fleld the effect on the production of dreams 
which is asserted by the theory of somatic stimulation. His 
experiments consisted in altering the position of a sleeper’s 
limbs and comparing the resultant dreams with the alterations 
made. He states his findings as follows: 

(1) The position of a limb in the dream corresponds approx- 
imately to its position in reality. Thus, we dream of the limb 
being in a static condition when it is so actually. 

(2) If we dream of a limb moving, then one of the positions 
passed through in the course of completing the movement in- 
variably corresponds to the limb’s actual position. 



(3) The position of the dreamer’s own limb may be ascribed 
in the dream to some other person. 

(4) The dream may be of the movement in question being 

(5) The limb which is in the position in question may appear 
in the dream as an animal or monster, in which case a certain 
analogy is established between them. • 

(6) The position of a limb may give rise in the dream to 
thoughts which have some connection with the limb. Thus, if the. 
fingers are concerned, we dream of numbers. 

I should be inclined to conclude from findings such as these 
that even the theory of somatic stimulation has not succeeded in 
completely doing away with the apparent absence of determina- 
tion in the choice of what dream-images are to be produced.^ 

4. Psychical Sources of Stimulation 

When we were dealing with the relations of dreams to waking 
life and with the material of dreams, we found that the most 
ancient and the most recent students of dreams were united in 
believing that men dream of what they do during the daytime 
and of what interests them while they are awake [p. 7 f.]. Such 
an interest, carried over from waking life into sleep, would not 
only be a mental bond, a link between dreams and life, but 
would also provide us with a further source of dreams and one 
not to be despised. Indeed, taken in conjunction with the 
interests that develop during sleep — the stimuli that impinge 
on the sleeper — it might be enough to explain the origin of all 
dream-images. But we have also heard the opposite asserted, 
namely that dreams withdraw the sleeper from the interests of 
daytime and that, as a rule, we only start dreaming of the things 
that have most struck us during the day, after they have lost the 
spice of actuality in waking life. [Pp. 7 and 18.] Thus at every 
step we take in our analysis of dream-life we come to feel that it 
is impossible to make generalizations without covering our- 
selves by such qualifying phrases as ‘frequently’, ‘as a rule’ or 
‘in most cases’, and without being prepared to admit the 
validity of exceptions. 

^ [Footnote added 1914:] This author has since produced a two-volume 
report on his experiments (1910 and 1912), which is referred to belcw. 
[See p. 223 n.] . 



If it were a fact that waking interests, along with internal and 
external stimuli during sleep, sufficed to exhaust the aetiology 
of dreams, we ought to be in a position to give a satisfactory 
account of the origin of every element of a dream: the riddle of 
the sources of dreams would be solved, and it would only remain 
to define the share taken respectively by psychical and somatic 
stimuli in any partiaular dream. Actually no such complete 
explanation of a dream has ever yet been achieved, and anyone 
who has attempted it has found portions (and usually very 
numerous portions) of the dream regarding whose origin he 
could find nothing to say. Day-time interests are clearly not such 
far-reaching psychical sources of dreams as might have been 
expected from the categorical assertions that everyone con- 
tinues to carry on his daily business in his dreams. 

No other psychical sources of dreams are known. So it comes 
about that all the explanations of dreams given in the literature 
of the subject — with the possible exception of Schemer’s, which 
will be dealt with later [see p. 83] — leave a great gap when it 
comes to assigning an origin for the ideational images which 
constitute the most characteristic material of dreams. In this 
embarrassing situation, a majority of the writers on the subject 
have tended to reduce to a minimum the part played by 
psycliical factors in instigating dreams, since those factors are 
so hard to come at. It is true that they divide dreams into two 
main classes — those ‘due to nervous stimulation’ and those ‘due 
to association’, of which the latter have their source exclusively 
in reproduction [of material already experienced] (cf. Wundt, 
1874, 657 f.). Nevertheless they cannot escape a doubt ‘whether 
any dream can take place without being given an impetus by 
some somatic stimulus’ (Volkelt, 1875, 127). It is difficult even 
to give a description of purely associative dreams. ‘In associa- 
tive dreams proper, there can be no question of any such solid 
core [derived from somatic stimulation]. Even the very centre of 
the dream is only loosely put together. The ideational processes, 
which in any dream are ungoverned by reason or common 
sense, are here no longer even held together by any relatively 
important somatic or mental excitations, and are thus aban- 
doned to their own kaleidoscopic changes and to their own 
jumbled confusion.’ (Ibid., 118.) Wundt (1874, 656-7), too, 
seeks to minimize the psychical factor in the instigation of 
dreams. He declares that there seems to be no justification for 



regarding the phantasms of dreams as pure hallucinations; 
mos]^ dre_am-images are probably in fact illusions, since they 
arise from faint sense-impressions, which never cease during 
sleep. Weygandt (1893, 17) has adopted this same view and 
iriade its application general. He asserts of all dream-images 
‘that their primary causes are sensory stimuli and that only 
later do reproductive associations become attached to them’. 
Tissie (1898, 183) goes even further in putting a limit to the 
psychical sources of stimulation: ‘Les reves d’origine absolu- 
ment psychique n’ existent pas’; and (ibid., 6) ‘les pensees de 
nos reves nous viennent du dehors. . . .’^ 

Those writers who, like that eminent philosopher Wundt, 
take up a middle position do not fail to remark that in most 
dreams somatic stimuli and the psychical instigators (whether 
unknown or recognized as daytime interests) work in co- 

We shall find later that the enigma of the formation of 
dreams can be solved by the revelation of an unsuspected 
psychical source of stimulation. Meanwhile we shall feel no 
surprise at the over-estimation of the part played in forming 
dreams by stimuli which do not arise from mental life. Not only 
are they easy to discover and even open to experimental con- 
firmation; but the somatic view of the origin of dreams is com- 
pletely in line with the prevailing trend of thought in psychiatry 
to-day. It is true that the dominance of the brain over the 
organism is asserted with apparent confidence. Nevertheless, 
anything that might indicate that mental life is in any way 
independent of demonstrable organic changes or that its mani- 
festations are in any way spontaneous alarms the modern psy- 
chiatrist, as though a recognition of such things would inevitably 
bring back the days of the Philosophy of Nature, [see p. 5 «.] 
and of the metaphysical view of the nature of mind. The sus- 
picions of the psychiatrists have put the mind, as it were, under 
tutelage, and they now insist that none of its impulses shall 
be allowed to suggest that it has any means of its own. This 
behaviour of theirs only shows how little trust they really have 
in the validity of a causal connection between the somatic and 
the mental. Even when investigation shows that the primary 
exciting cause of a phenomenon is psychical, deeper research 

^ [‘Dreams of purely psychical origin do not exist.’ ‘The thoughts in 
our dreams reach us from outside.’] , 


will one day trace the path further and discover an organic 
basis for the mental event. But if at the moment we cannot 
see beyond the mental, that is no reason for denying its 

^ [The topics in this section are taken up again in Section C of 
Chapter V (p. 220 ff.).] 



It is a proverbial fact that dreams melt away in the morning. 
They can, of course, be remembered; for we only know dreams 
from our memory of them after we are awake. But we very 
often have a feeling that we have only remembered a dream in 
part and that there was more of it during the night; we can 
observe, too, how the recollection of a dream, which was still 
lively in the morning, will melt away, except for a few small 
fragments, in the course of the day; we often know we have 
dreamt, without knowing what we have dreamt; and we are so 
familiar with the fact of dreams being liable to be forgotten, 
that we see no absurdity in the possibility of someone having 
had a dream in the night and of his not being aware in the 
morning either of what he has dreamt or even of the fact that 
he has dreamt at all. On the other hand, it sometimes happens 
that dreams show an extraordinary persistence in the memory. 
I have analysed dreams in my patients which occurred twenty- 
five and more years earlier; and I can remember a dream of 
my own separated by at least thirty-seven years from to-day 
and yet as fresh as ever in my memory. All of this is very re- 
meirkable and not immediately intelligible. 

The most detailed account of the forgetting of dreams is the 
one given by Striimpell [1877, 79 f.]. It is evidently a complex 
phenomenon, for Striimpell traces it back not to a single cause 
but to a whole number of them. 

In the first place, all the causes that lead to forgetting in 
.waking life are operative for dreams as well. When we are 
awake we regularly forget countless sensations and perceptions 
at once, because they were too weak or because the mental 
excitation attaching to them was too slight. The same holds 
good of many dream-images: they are forgotten because they 
are too weak, while stronger images adjacent to them are re- 
membered. The factor of intensity, however, is certainly not in 
itself enough to determine whether a dream-image shall be 
recollected. Striimpell [1877, 82] admits, as well as other writers 
(e.g. Calkins, 1893, 312), that we often forget dream-images 



which ^^•e know were very vivid, w'hiie a very large number 
which are shadov,y and lacking in sensory force are among 
those retained in the memoiyc Moreover when we are awake 
we tend easily to forget an event which occurs only once and 
more readily to notice what can be perceived repeatedly. Now' 
most dream-images are unique experiences;^ and that fact will 
contribute impartially* tow^ards making us forget all dreams. 
Far more importance attaches to a third cause of forgetting. If 
sensations, ideas, thoughts, and so on, are to attain a certain 
degree of susceptibility' to being remembered, it is essential that 
they should not remain isolated but should be arranged in 
appropriate concatenations and groupings. If a short line of 
verse is dnided up into its component words and these are 
mixed up, it becomes very' hard to remember. ‘If w'ords are 
properly arranged and put into the relevant order, one word 
will help another, and the whole, being charged with meaning, 
will be easily taken up by the memory' and retained for a long 
time. It is in general as difficult and unusual to retain what is 
nonsensical as it is to retain w'hat is confused and disordered.’ 
[Striimpcll, 1877, 83.] Now dreams are in most cases lacking 
in intelligibility and orderliness. The compositions which con- 
stitute dreams are barren of the qualities which w'ould make it 
possible to remember them, and they are forgotten because as a 
rule they fall to pieces a moment later. Radestock (1879, 168), 
however, claims to have observed that it is the most peculiar 
dreams that are best remembered, and this, it must be admitted, 
w'ould scarcely tally with w'hat has just been said. 

Striimpell [1877, 82 f.] believes that certain other factors 
derived from the relation between dreaming and waking life 
are of still greater importance in causing dreams to be for- 
gotten. The liability of dreams to be forgotten by waking con- 
sciousness is evidently only the counterpart of the fact which 
has been mentioned earlier [p. 21] that dreams scarcely ever 
take over ordered recollections from waking life, but only 
details selected from them, which they tear from the psychical 
context in which they are usually remembered in the waking 
state. Thus dream-compositions find no place in the company 
of the psychical sequences with which the mind is filled. There 
is nothing that can help us to remember them. ‘In this way 

^ Dreams that recur periodically have often been observed. Cf. the 
collection given by Ghabaneix (1897). [Gf. p. 190.] 


dream-structures are, as it were, lifted above the floor of our 
mental life and float in psychical space like clouds in the sky, 
scattered by the first breath of wind.’ (Striimpell, 1877, 87.) 
After waking, moreover, the world of the senses presses forward 
and at once takes possession of the attention with a force which 
very few dream-images can resist; so that here too we have an- 
other factor tending in the same direction. Dreams give way 
before the impressions of a new day just as the brilliance of the 
stars yields to the light of the sun. 

Finally, there is another fact to be borne in mind as likely to 
lead to dreams being forgotten, namely that most people take 
very little interest in their dreams. Anyone, such as a scientific 
investigator, who pays attention to his dreams over a period of 
time will have more dreams than usual — which no doubt 
means that he remembers his dreams with greater case and 

Two further reasons why dreams should be forgotten, which 
Benini [1898, 155-6] quotes as having been brought forward by 
Bonatelli [1880] as additions to those mentioned by Striimpell, 
seem in fact to be already covered by the latter. They are (1) 
that the alteration in coenaesthcsia between the sleeping and 
waking states is unfavourable to reciprocal reproduction between 
them; and (2) that the different arrangement of the ideational 
material in dreams makes them untranslatable, as it were, for^ 
waking consciousness. 

In view of all these reasons in favour of dreams being for- 
gotten, it is in fact (as Strumpell himself insists [1877, 6]) very 
remarkable that so many of them are retained in the memory. 
The repeated attempts by writers on the subject to lay down 
the rules governing the recollection of dreams amount to an 
admission that here too we are faced by something puzzling and 
unexplained. Certain particular characteristics of the recollec- 
tion of dreams have been rightly emphasized recently (cf. 
Radestock, 1879, [169], and Tissie, 1898, [148 f.]), such as the 
fact that when a dream seems in the morning to have been for- 
gotten, it may nevertheless be recollected during the comse of 
the day, if its content, forgotten though it is, is touched upon 
by some chance perception. 

But the recollection of dreams in general is open to an objec- 
tion which is bound to reduce their value very r>^- . letely in 
critical opinion. Since so great a proportion of dreams i-- lost 


altogether, we may well doubt whether our memory of what is 
left of them may not be falsified. 

These doubts as to the accuracy of the reproduction of 
dreams are also expressed by Striimpell (1877, [119]): ‘Thus 
it may easily happen that waking consciousness unwittingly 
makes interpolations in the memoiy' of a dream: we persuade 
ourselves that we have^dreamt all kinds of things that were not 
contained in the actual dreams.’ 

Jessen (1855, 547) writes wdth special emphasis on this point: 
‘Moreover, in investigating and interpreting coherent and con- 
sistent dreams a particular circumstance must be borne in mind 
which, as it seems to me, has hitherto received too little atten- 
tion. In such cases the truth is almost always obscured by the 
fact that when we recall dreams of this kind to our memory we 
almost always — unintentionally and without noticing the fact 
— fill in the gaps in the dream-images. It is seldom or never 
that a coherent dream was in fact as coherent as it seems to us 
in memory. Even the most truth-loving of men is scarcely able 
to relate a noteworthy dream tvithout some additions or em- 
bellishments. The tendency of the human mind to see every- 
thing connectedly is so strong that in memory it unwittingly 
fills in any lack of coherence there may be in an incoherent 

Some remarks made by Egger [1895, 41], though they were 
no doubt arrived at independently, read almost like a transla- 
tion of this passage from Jessen: ‘. . . L’observation des reves a 
ses difficultes speciales et le seul moyen d’eviter tout erreur en 
pareille matiere est de confier au papier sans le moindre retard 
ce que Ton vient d’eprouver et de remarquer; sinon, I’oubli 
vient vite ou total ou partiel; I’oubli total est sans gravite; mais 
I’oubli partiel est perfide; car si Ton se met ensuite a raconter 
ce que I’on n’a pas oublie, on est expose a completer par imagina- 
tion les fragments incoherents et disjoints fournis par la memoire 
. . .; on devient artiste a son insu, et le recit periodiquement 
repete s’impose a la creance de son auteur, qui, de bonne foi, 
le presente comme un fait authentique, dument etabli selon les 
bonnes methodes. . . .’^ 

^ [‘There are peculiar difficulties in observing dreams, and the only 
way of escaping all errors in such matters is to put down upon paper 
with the least possible delay what we have just experienced or observed. 
Otherwise forgetfulness, whether total or partial, quickly supervenes. 



Very similar ideas are expressed by Spitta (1882, 338), who 
seems to believe that it is not until we try to reproduce a dream 
that we introduce order of any kind into its loosely associated 
elements: we ‘change things that are merely juxtaposed into 
sequences or causal chains, that is to say, we introduce a process 
of logical connection which is lacking in the dream.’ 

Since the only check that we have upon the validity of our 
memory is objective confirmation, and since that is unobtain- 
able for dreams, which are our own personal experience and of 
which the only source we have is our recollection, what value 
can we still attach to our memory of dreams?^ 

Total forgetfulness is not serious; but partial forgetfulness is treacherous. 
For if we then proceed to give an account of what we have not forgotten, 
we are liable to fill in from our imagination the incoherent and dis- 
jointed fragments furnished by memory. . . . We unwittingly become 
creative artists; and the tale, if it is repeated from time to time, imposes 
itself on its author’s own belief, and he ends by offering it in good faith 
as an authentic fact duly and legitimately established.’] 

* [The questions raised in this section arc taken up in Chapter VII, 
Section A (p. 512 ff.).] ‘ 


what are truly characteristic of dreams are only those elements 
of their content which behave like images, which are more like 
perceptions, that is, than they are like mnemic presentations. 
Leaving on one side all the arguments, so familiar to psychia- 
trists, on the nature of hallucinations, we shall be in agreement 
with every authority on the subject in asserting that dreams 
hallucinate — that they nreplace thoughts by hallucinations. In 
this respect there is no distinction between visual and acoustic 
presentations: it has been observed that if one falls asleep with 
the memory of a series of musical notes in one’s mind, the 
memory becomes transformed into an hallucination of the same 
melody; while, if one then wakes up again — and the two states 
may alternate more than once during the process of dropping 
asleep — the hallucination gives way in turn to the mnemic 
presentation, which is at once fainter and qualitatively different 
from it. 

The transformation of ideas into hallucinations is not the only 
respect in which dreams differ from corresponding thoughts in 
waking life. Dreams construct a situation out of these images; 
they represent an event which is actually happening; as Spitta 
(1882, 145) puts it, they ‘dramatize* an idea. But this feature of 
dream-life can only be fully understood if we further recognize 
that in dreams — as a rule, for there are exceptions which 
require special examination — we appear not to think but to 
experience', that is to say, we attach complete belief to the 
hallucinations. Not until we wake up does the critical com- 
ment arise that we have not experienced anything but have 
merely been thinking in a peculiar way, or in other words 
dreaming. It is this characteristic that distinguishes true 
dreams from day-dreaming, which is never confused with 

Burdach (1838, 502 f.) summsirizes the features of dream-life 
which we have so far discussed in the following words: ‘These 
are among the essential features of dreams: (a) In dreams the 
subjective activity of our minds appears in an objective form, 
for our perceptive faculties regard the products of our imagina- 
tion as though they were sense impressions. ... {b) Sleep 
signifies an end of the authority of the self. Hence falling asleep 
brings a certain degree of passivity along with it. . . . The 
images that accompany sleep can occur only on condition that 
the authority of the self is reduced.’ 


The next thing is to try to explain the belief which the mind 
accords to dream-hallucinations, a belief which can only arise 
after some kind of ‘authoritative’ activity of the self has ceased. 
Striimpell (1877) argues that in this respect the mind is carrying 
out its function correctly and in conformity with its own 
mechanism. Far from being mere presentations, the elements 
of dreams are true and real mental experiences of the same kind 
as arise in a waking state through the agency of the senses. 
(Ibid., 34.) The waking mind produces ideas and thoughts in 
verbal images and in speech; but in dreams it does so in true 
sensory images. (Ibid., 35.) Moreover, there is a spatial con- 
sciousness in dreams, since sensations and images are assigned 
to an external space, just as they are in waking. (Ibid., 36.) It 
must therefore be allowed that in dreams the mind is in the 
same relation to its images and perceptions as it is in waking. 
(Ibid., 43.) If it is nevertheless in error in so doing, that is 
because in the state of sleep it lacks the criterion which alone 
makes it possible to distinguish between sense-perceptions aris- 
ing from without and from within. It is unable to submit its 
dream-images to the only tests which could prove their objec- 
tive reality. In addition to this, it disregards the distinction 
between images which are only interchangeable arbitrarily and 
cases where the element of arbitrariness is absent. It is in error 
because it is unable to apply the law of causality to the content 
of its dreams. (Ibid., 50-1.) In short, the fact of its having 
turned away from the external world is also the reason for its 
belief in the subjective world of dreams. 

Delboeuf (1885, 84) arrives at the same conclusion after 
somewhat different psychological arguments. We believe in the 
reality of dream-images, he says, because in our sleep we have 
no other impressions with which to compare them, because we 
are detach, cd from the external world. But the reason why we 
believe in tiii; i .ith of these hallucinations is not because it is 
impossible to put them to the test within the dream. A dream 
can seem to offer us such tests; it can let us touch the rose that 
we see — and yet we are dreaming. In Delboeuf’s opinion there 
is only one valid criterion of whether we are dreaming or awake, 
and that is the purely empirical one of the fact of waking up. I 
conclude that everything I experienced between falling asleep 
and waking up was illusory, when, on awaking, I find that I 
am lying undressed in bed. During sleep I took the dreapi- 



images as real owing to my mental habit (which cannot be put 
to sleep) of assuming the existence of an external world with 
which I contrast my own ego.^ 

Detachment from the external world seems thus to be re- 
garded as the factor determining the most marked features of 
dream-life. It is therefore worth while quoting some penetrat- 
ing remarks made long ago by Burdach which throw light on 
the relations between the sleeping mind and the external world 
and which are calculated to prevent our setting too great store 
by the conclusions drawn in the last few pages. ‘Sleep’, he 
writes, ‘can occur only on condition that the mind is not 
irritated by sensory stimuli. . . . But the actual precondition of 
sleep is not so much absence of sensory stimuli as absence of 

1 HafTner (1887, 243) attempts, like Delbceuf, to explain the activity 
of dreaming by the modification which the introduction of an abnormal 
condition must inevitably produce in the otherwise correct functioning 
of an intact mental apparatus; but he gives a someivhat different account 
of that condition. According to him the first mark of a dream is its 
independence of space and time, i.e. the fact of a presentation being 
emancipated from the position occupied by the subject in the spatial 
and temporal order of events. The second basic feature of dreams is 
connected with this — namely, the fact that hallucinations, phantasies 
and imaginary combinations are confused with external perceptions. 
‘All the higher powers of the mind — in particular the formation of 
concepts and the powers of judgement and inference on the one hand 
and free self-determination on the other hand — are attached to sensory 
images and have at all times a background of such images. It follows, 
therefore, that these higher activities too take their part in the dis- 
orderliness of the dream-images. I say “take their part”, since in them- 
selves our powers of judgement and of will are in no way altered in 
sleep. Our activities are just as clear-sighted and just as free as in waking 
life. Even in his dreams a man cannot violate the laws of thought as such 
— ^he cannot, for instance, regard as identical things that appear to him 
as contraries, and so on. So too in dreams he can only desire what he 
looks upon as a good (j«6 ratione bom). But the human spirit is led astray 
in dreams in its application of the laws of thought and of will through 
confusing one idea with another. Thus it comes about that we are guilty 
of the grossest contradictions in dreams, while at the same time we can 
make the clearest judgements, draw the most logical inferences and 
come to the most virtuous and saintly decisions. . . . Lack of orienta- 
tion is the whole secret of the Bights taken by our imagination in 
dreams, and lack of critical reflection and of communication with 
other people is the main source of the unbridled extravagance 
exhibited in dreams by our judgements as well as by our hopes and 
wishes.’ (Ibid., 18.) [The problem of ‘reality-testing’ is considered 
later, on p. 566.] 


interest in them.^ Some sense impressions may actually be 
necessary in order to calm the mind. Thus the miller can only 
sleep so long as he hears the clacking of his mill; and anyone 
who feels that burning a night-light is a necessary precaution, 
finds it impossible to get to sleep in the dark.’ (Burdach, 
1838, 482.) 

‘In sleep the mind isolates itself from the external world and 
withdraws from its own periphery. . . . Nevertheless connec- 
tion is not broken off entirely. If we could not hear or feel 
while we were actually asleep, but only after we had woken up, 
it would be impossible to wake us at all. . . . The persistence of 
sensation is proved even more clearly by the fact that what 
rouses us is not always the mere sensory strength of an impres- 
sion but its psychical context: a sleeping man is not aroused by 
an indifferent word, but if he is called by name he wakes. . . . 
Thus the mind in ‘;’,:ep distinguishes between sensations. ... It 
is for that reason U nt the absence of a sensory stimulus can 
wake a man if it is ixi- > ed to sometliing of ideational import- 
ance to him; so it is that the man with the night-light wakes if it 
is extinguished and the miiler is roused if his mill comes to a 
stop. He is awakened, that 's, by the cessation of a sensory 
activity; and this implies that that activity was perceived by 
him, but, since it was indifferent, or rather satisfying, did not 
disturb his mind.’ (Ibid., 485-'3.) 

Even if we disregard these objections — and they are by no 
means trifling ones — , we shall ^^ave to confess that the features 
of dream-life which we have considered hitherto, and which 
have been ascribed to its detachment from the external world, 
do not account completely for its strange character. For it 
should be possible otherwise to tJirn the hallucinations in a 
dream back into ideas, and its situations into thoughts, and in 
that way to solve the problem of dieam-interpretation. And 
that in fact is what we are doing when, after waking, we repro- 
duce a dream from memory; but, whether we succeed in 
making this re-translation wholly or only in part, the dream 
remains no less enigmatic than before. 

And indeed all the authorities unhesitatingly assume that yet 
other and more deep-going modifications of the ideational 
material of waking life take place in dreams. Striimpell (1877, 

^ [Footnote added 1914:] Cf. the ‘d^sinUrit’ which Claparide (1905, 
306 f.) regards as the mechanism of falling asleep. 


27-8) has endeavoured to put his finger on one such modifica- 
tion in the following passage: ‘With the cessation of sensory 
functioning and of normal vital consciousness, the mind loses 
the soil in which its feelings, desires, interests and activities are 
rooted. The psychical states, too, — feelings, interests, judge- 
ments of value — i which are linked to mnemic images in waking 
life, are subjected to . an obscuring pressure, as a result of 
which their connection with those images is broken; perceptual 
images of things, persons, places, events and actions in waking 
life are reproduced separately in great numbers, but none of 
them carries its psychical value along with it. That value is de- 
tached from them and they thus float about in the mind at their 
own sweet will. . . .’ According to Striimpell, the fact of images 
being denuded of their psychical value (which in turn goes 
back to detachment from the external world) plays a principal 
part in creating the impression of strangeness which distin- 
guishes dreams from actual life in our memory. 

We have seen [cf. p. 49] that falling asleep at once involves 
the loss of one of our mental activities, namely our poM’'’r of 
giving intentional guidance to the sequence of our ider c. We 
are now faced by the suggestion, which is in any case a plausible 
one, that the effects of the state of sleep may extend over all the 
faculties of the mind. Some of these seem to be entirely sus- 
pended; but the question now arises whether the rest continue 
to operate normally and whether under such conditions they 
are capable of normal work. And here it may be asked whether 
the distinguishing features of dreams cannot be explained by 
the lowering of psychical efficiency in the sleeping state — a 
notion which finds support in the impression made by dreams 
on our waking judgement. Dreams are disconnected, they 
accept the most violent contradictions without the least objec- 
tion, they admit impossibilities, they disregard knowledge which 
carries great weight with us in the daytime, they reveal us as 
ethical and moral imbeciles. Anyone who when he was awake 
behaved in the sort of way that is shown in situations in dreams 
would be considered insane. Anyone who when he was awake 
talked in the sort of way that people talk in dreams or des- 
cribed the sort of thing that happens in dreams would 
give us the impression of being muddle-headed or feeble- 
minded. It seems to be no more than putting the truth into 
words when we express our very low opinion of mental activity 


in dreams and assert that in dreams the higher intellectual 
faculties in particular are suspended or at all events gravely 

The authorities display unusual unanimity — exceptions will 
be treated later [p. 59 ff.] — ^in expressing opinions of this kind 
on dreams; and these judgements lead directly to a particular 
theory or explanation of dream-life. But it is time for me to 
leave generalities and to give instead a series of quotations from 
various writers — philosophers and physicians — upon the psycho- 
logical characteristics of dreams. 

According to Lemoine (1855), the ‘incoherence’ of dream- 
images is the one essential characteristic of dreams. 

Maury (1878, 163) agrees wnth him: ‘II n’y a pas de reves 
absolument raisonnables et qui ne contiennent quelque inco- 
herence, quelque anachronisme, quelque absurdite.’* 

Spitta [1882, 193] quotes Hegel as saying that dreams are 
devoid of all objective and reasonable coherence. 

Dugas [1897a, 41 7] writes: ‘Le reve e’est I’anarchie psychique 
affective et mentale, e’est le jeu des fonctions livrees a eUes- 
memes et s’exerQant sans contrdle et sans but; dans le reve 
I’esprit est un automate spirituel.’® 

Even Volkelt (1875, 14), whose theory is far from regarding 
psychical activity during sleep as purposeless, speaks of ‘the 
relaxing, disconnecting and confusing of ideational life, which 
in ti-e waking state is held together by the logical force of the 
cenhal ego.’ 

The absurdity of the associations of ideas that occur in dreams 
could scarce i 7 be criticized more sharply than it was by Cicero 
(JDe divinaiioTu IT, [bexi, 146]): ‘Nihil tarn praepostere, tarn in- 
condite, tarn mf :r.truose cogitari potest, quod non possimus 

Fechner (1889, 2, 522) writes: ‘It is as though psychological 
activity had been transported from the brain of a reasonable 
man into that of a fool.’ 

1 [‘There are no dreams that are afoo/ate/ji reasonable and that do not 
contain some incoherence, anachronism or absurdity.’] 

® [‘A dream is psychical, emotional and mental anarchy; it is the play 
of functions left to their own devices and acting without control or 
purpose; in dreams the spirit becomes a spiritual automaton.’] 

• ‘[There is no imaginable thin g too absurd, too involved, or too 
abnormal for us to dream about it.’ (Falconer’s translation in die Loeb 
Classical Library, 1922, 533.)] , 


Radestock (1879, 145): ‘In fact it seems impossible to detect 
any fixed laws in this crazy activity. After withdrawing from 
the strict policing exercised over the course of waking ideas by 
the rational will and the attention, dreams melt into a mad 
whirl of kaleidoscopic confusion.’ 

Hildebrandt (1875, 45); ‘What astonishing leaps a dreamer 
may make, for instance, in drawing inferences! How calmly he 
is prepared to see the most familiar lessons of experience turned 
upside down. What laughable contradictions he is ready to 
accept in the laws of nature and society before, as we say, things 
get beyond a joke and the excessive strain of nonsense wakes 
him up. We calculate without a qualm that three times three 
make twenty; we are not in the least surprised when a dog 
quotes a line of poetry, or when a dead man walks to his grave 
on his own legs, or when we see a rock floating on the water; 
we proceed gravely on an important mission to the Duchy of 
Bernburg or to the Principality of Liechtenstein to inspect their 
naval forces; or we are persuaded to enlist under Charles XII 
shortly before the battle of Poltava.’ 

Binz (1878, 33), having in mind the theory of dreams which 
is based upon such impressions as these, writes: ‘The content 
of at least nine out of ten dreams is nonsensical. We bring 
together in them people and things that have no connec- 
tion whatever with one another. Next moment there is a 
shift in the kaleidoscope and we are faced by a new grouping, 
more senseless and crazy, if possible, than the last. And 
so the changing play of the incompletely sleeping brain 
goes on, till we awake and clasp our forehead and wonder 
ivhcther we still possess the capacity for rational ideas and 

Maury (1878, 50) finds a parallel to the relation between 
dream-images and waking thoughts which will be highly 
significant to physicians: ‘La production de ces images que chez 
I’homme eveille fait le pluss ouvent naitre la volonte, corre- 
spond, pour I’intelligence, a ce que sont pour la motilite 
certains mouvements que nous offre la choree et les affections 
paralytiques . . .’^ He further regards dreams as ‘toute une 

^ [‘The production of these images (which in a waking person are 
usually provoked by the will) corresponds in the sphere of intelligence to 
the place taken in the sphere of motion by some of the movements 
observable in chorea and paralytic disorders.’] 


serie de degradations de la feculte pensante et raisonnante’. 
(Ibid., 27.) 1 

It is scarcely necessary to quote the writers who repeat 
Maury’s opinion in relation to the various higher mental func- 
tions. Striimpell (1877, 26), for instance, remarks that in dreams 
— even, of course, where there is no manifest nonsense — there 
is an eclipse of all the logical operations of the mind which are 
based on relations and connections. Spitta (1882, 148) declares 
that ideas that occur in dreams seem to be completely with- 
drawn from the law of causality. Radestock (1879, [153-4]) 
and other writers insist upon the weakness of judgement and 
inference characteristic of dreams. According to Jodi (1896, 
123), there is no critical faculty in dreams, no power of cor- 
recting one set of perceptions by reference to the general con- 
tent of consciousness. The same author remarks that ‘every 
kind of conscious activity occurs in dreams, but only in an in- 
complete, inhibited and isolated fashion.’ The contradictions 
with our waking knowledge in which dreams are involved are 
explained by Strieker (1879, 98) and many others as being due 
to facts being forgotten in dreams or to logical relations be- 
tween ideas having disappeared. And so on, and so on. 

Nevertheless, the writers who in general take so unfavourable 
a view of psychical functioning in dreams allow that a certain 
remnant of mental activity still remains in them. This is ex- 
plicitly admitted by Wundt, whose theories have had a deter- 
mining influence on so many other workers in this field. What, 
it may be asked, is the nature of the remnant of normal mental 
activity which persists in dreams? There is fairly general agree- 
ment that the reproductive faculty, the memor)'’, seems to have 
suffered least, and indeed that it sho^vs a certain superiority to 
the same function in waking life (see Section B above), though 
some part of the absurdities of dreaming seems to be explicable 
by its forgetfulness. In the opinion of Spitta (1882, 84 f.) the 
part of the mind which is not affected by sleep is the life of the 
sentiments and it is this which directs dreams. By ‘sentiment’ 
[‘Gemui’] he means ‘the stable assemblage of feelinigs which 
constitutes the innermost subjective essence of a human being* . 

Scholz (1893, 64) believes that one of the mental activities 
operating in dreams is a tendency to subject the dream- 

*■ [‘A whole series of degradatioiis of the t hin k ing and leasonh:^ 



material to ‘re-interpretation in allegorical terms’. Siebeck too 
(1877, 11) sees in dreams a faculty of the mind for ‘wider 
interpretation’, which is exercised upon all sensations and per- 
ceptions. There is particular difficulty in assessing the position 
in dreams of what is ostensibly the highest of the psychical 
functions, that of consciousness. Since all that we know of 
dreams is derived from consciousness, there can be no doubt 
of its persisting in them; yet Spitta (1882, 84-5) believes that 
what persists in dreams is only consciousness and not self- 
consciousness. Delboeuf (1885, 19), however, confesses that he 
is unable to follow the distinction. 

The laws of association governing the sequence of ideas hold 
good of dream-images, and indeed their dominance is even 
more clearly and strongly expressed in dreams. ‘Dreams’, says 
Striimpell (1877, 70), ‘run their course, as it seems, according 
to the laws either of bare ideas or of organic stimuli accompany- 
ing such ideas — that is, without being in any way affected by 
reflection or commonsense or aesthetic taste or moral judge- 
ment.’ [See pp. 54 f. and 222.] 

The authors whose views I am now giving picture the process 
of forming dreams in some such way as this. The totality of the 
sensory stimuli generated during sleep from the various sources 
which I have already enumerated [see Section C above] arouse 
in the mind in the first place a number of ideas, which are 
represented in the form of hallucinations or more properly, 
according to Wundt [see p. 41], of illusions, in view of their 
derivation from external and internal stimuli. These ideas 
become linked together according to the familiar laws of 
association and, according to the same laws, call up a further 
series of ideas (or images). The whole of this material is then 
worked over, so far as it will allow, by what still remain in 
operation of the organizing and thinking faculties of the mind. 
(See, for instance, Wundt [1874, 658] and Weygandt [1893].) 
All that remain undiscovered are the motives which decide 
whether the calling-up of images arising from non-external 
sources shall proceed along one chain of associations or another. 

It has often been remarked, however, that the associations 
connecting dream-images with one another are of a quite 
special kind and differ from those which operate in waking 
thought. Thus Volkelt (1875, 15) writes: ‘In dreams the associa- 
tions seem to play at catch-as-catch-can in accordance with 


chance similarities and connections that are barely perceptible. 
Every dream is stuffed full of slovenly and perfunctory associa- 
tions of this kind.’ Maury (1878, 126) attaches very great im- 
portance to this feature of the way in which ideas are linked in 
dreams, since it enables him to draw a close analogy between 
dream-life and certain mental disorders. He specifies two mai-n 
features of a ‘ delire' \ ‘(1) une action spontanee et comme auto- 
matique de I’esprit; (2) une association vicieuse et irreguliere des 
idees.’^ Maury himself gives two excellent instances of dreams 
of his own in which dream-images were linked together merely 
through a similarity in the sound of words. He once dreamt 
that he was on a pilgrimage (pelerinage) to Jerusalem or Mecca; 
after many adventures he found himself visiting Pe/letier, the 
chemist, who, after some conversation, gave him a zinc shovel 
{pelle) ; in the next part of the dream this turned into a great 
broad-sword. (Ibid., 137.) In another dream he was walking 
along a highway and reading the number of kilometres on the 
milestones; then he was in a grocer’s shop where there was a 
big pair of scales, and a man was putting Ai/ogramme weights 
into the scale in order to weigh Maury; the grocer then said to 
him: ‘You’re not in Paris but on the island of Gilolo.' Several 
other scenes followed, in which he saw a Zobelia fiower, and 
then General Lo^ez, of whose death he had read shortly before. 
Finally, while he was playing a game of /otto, he woke up. 
(Ibid., 126.)== 

We shall no doubt be prepared to find, however, that this 
low estimate of psychical fimctioning in dreams has not been 
allowed to pass wdthout contradiction — though contradiction 
on this point would seem to be no easy matter. For instance, 
Spitta (1882, 118), one of the disparagers of dream-life, insists 
that the same psychological laws which regulate waking life 
also hold good in dreams; and another, Dugas (1897fl), declares 
that ‘le reve n’est pas deraison ni meme irraison pure’.® But 

^ [‘(1) A mental act which is spontaneous and as it were automatic; 
(2) an invalid and irregular association of ideas.’ — N£. In French (and 
similarly in German) psychiatry 'delire' has the meaning of a delusional 

* [Foolnote added 1909:] At a later stage [p. 531 «.] we shall come to 
understand the meaning of dreams such as this which are filled with 
alliterations and similar-soimding first syllables. 

* [‘Dreams are not contrary to reason or even entirely lacking in 

reason.’] ' 

I.. TTHE SC'SHIinOTFirC l-flES-ViHUlSE 035 miAl'IS 

vx^:h &ip.«ti’i:jjas criOT IliMie: wsffTat s* foag: as tiBmir amaffiMKra i'. .ixt 
Mfj- iO' rsEA-aidilc dreim wtEfu tdsfisr flswtt desOTTpcsscia; a ;' t 

piycMcal aioarclw' aasd sE-HiiipEsa -sf everj' ftHititifflijn! ifet pnjn?:r;2iO. 
BHi ffibreaHis, Ic seaniEf, ItwyeveTj to have dawinisdl inpois aoim* 
warfiKis ilhac ^ite ttratlisoa;' of drsarci saav r^ot Ih'e ^'rijilaa'ari i] 
ami nBaj' ss'effl siirniilateii. iiio nbac oftkc I>aaiig'Jh piiim:,? oa 
vihemt iiiK siurewd Jadggsi orct paajecL Htsse iaaficr wnrinisn- 
cafflHiot lia^'c by appearascei: or sbo a-ppiSaiaEior ptn-:- 

jsiited ico ibisiHi by drear^i- naiiit karo- b«siE a diSsTEat ioss. 

TEmus iha'eki'ck tMli 72i). -jafeoiiiiii: dweMiisg eni toe 

ajjpareBi: zbsufSliy of dreams. 2 >-eaka' of iktoa 2 s ‘ss. aanciitoc 
world cf V 2 :st cEEOsionf and ijflpertsct iScomgteb tbe stody of 
wKcb itogbt re^'eal to tu prlrrJtrvs atages im die to'oliuflf'ts of 
men&zl Mt. 

Tbe same ’dew^ k ezpres-ed by Jaoies Ssily (1S93, SdS; in 
2 toaransr thzt is boto toore sweecing and more pemtojadsto 
Hi s words deserv'c aid tbs sore atteadoa when we bean ,!e Enind 
that he was more firtniy convinced, perhiaps, tisaa aay orJier 
psychologint that dreams cave a aisgEiiscd EaeaiaHig. ‘Now 
our dreams are a meacs of cocsening these succstoive fearliier] 
personalities. Whin mdup m go hack to She old tcap's rtf hc&g at 
things and offiding about them, to impulses and acikities tckklk isr.g 
ago dominated us.' 

The sagacious DcKoceuf (1885, 2221, declares [ihoush beptos 
hiitiself hi the vrrong by nor giving any refutation of the toarerial 
which contradicts his thesis) : ‘Dans le sommeil, hormis la per- 
ception; toutes les facuites de resprit, intelligence, imagtEadcn, 
memoire, volonte, moralite, restent intactes dam leur essence: 
sculcment elles s'appUqucm k des objets imaginaires et mobiles. 
Le songcur cst un acteur qui joue a % olonte les fous et les sages, 
les bourrcaux ct les vicdmes, les nains et ics geants, les demons 
et les anges.'* 

The most energetic opponent of those who seek to depredate 
ps)'chical functioning in dreams seems to be the Afarquis 
d’Hervey de Saint-Denys [1867], tdth whom Alaury' carried 

^ [T bis paragraph was added in 1914.] 

* [‘In sl«p, all the mental faculties fexc^t for perception) — intelli- 
gence imagination, memory, -will and morality— -remain essentially 
intact; they are merely applied to imaginary and unstable objects. A 
dreamer is an actor who at his own will plays the parts of madinea and 
philosophers, of esecudoners and their victims, of dwarfi and giants, of 
demons and angels.’] 


on a lively controversy, and whose book, in spite of all my 
efforts, I have not succeeded in procuring.^ hlauiy (1878, 19) 
writes of him; ‘M. le Marquis d’Her\'ey pretc a rintelligence 
durant Ic sommeil, toute sa libcrte d'action et d’attention et il 
ne semble faire consistcr le sommeil que dans I'occlusion des 
sens, dans leur fermcture au monde extcrieur; en sortc que 
rhomme qui dort ne se distingue guei'e, selon sa maniere de 
voir, de Thomme qui laisse vaguer sa pensce en se bouchant les 
sens; toute la difference qui separe alors la pensee ordinaire 
de celle du dormeur c’est que, chez celui-ci, I’idee prend une 
forme visible, objective et resscmble, a s’y mcprcndrc, a la 
sensation determinec par les objcts cxtcrieurs; le souvenir revfit 
I’apparence du fait present.’- To this Maury adds ‘qu’il y a une 
difference de plus et capitale a savoir que les facultcs intcllec- 
tuelles de I’homme endormi n’offrcnt pas I’equilibre qu’elles 
gardent chez I’homme evcillc.’® 

Vaschide (1911, 146 f.) * gives us a clearer account of Hetvey 
de Saint-Denys’ book and quotes a passage from it [1867, 35] 
upon the apparent incoherence of dreams: ‘L’image du reve 
est la copie de I’iddc. Le principal cst I’idee; la vision n’est 
qu’accessoire. Ccci etabli, il faut savoir suivre la marchc des 
idees. il faut savoir analyser Ic tissu des reves; I’incoherencc 
devient alors compr<*hcnsiblc, les conceptions les plus fantasques 
deviennent des faits simples et parl'aitemcnt logiques. . . . Les 
reves les plus bizarres trouvent meme une explication des plus 
logiques quand on sait les analyser.’® 

^ [This work, by a famous sinologist, was published anonymously.] 
® [‘The Marquis d’Hervey attributes complete liberty of action and 
attention to the intelligence during sleep, and he seems to tliink that 
sleep consists merely in the blocking of the senses, in their being closed 
to the external world. So that on his view a sleeping man would hardly 
be different from a man who shut off his senses and allowed his thoughts 
to wander; the only distinction between ordinary thoughts and those of 
a sleeper would be that, in the latter, ideas assume a visible and objective 
shape and are indistinguishable from sensations determined by external 
objects, while memories take on the appearance of present events.’] 

“ [‘There is a further distinction and one of capital importance: 
namely, that the intellectual faculties of a sleeping man do not exhibit 
the balance maintained in a man who is awake.’] 

* [This paragraph and the next were added in 1914.] 

* [‘Dream-images are copies of ideas. The essential thing is the idea, 
the vision is a mere accessory. When this is once established, we must 
know how to follow the sequence of the ideas, we must know how to 



Johan Starcke (1913, 243) has pointed out that a similar 
explanation of the incoherence of dreams was put forsvard by 
an earlier writer, Wolf Davidson (1799, 136), whose work was 
unknown to me: ‘The remarkable leaps taken by our ideas in 
dreams all have their basis in the law of association; sometimes, 
however, these connections occur in the mind very obscurely, 
so that our ideas often seem to have taken a leap when in fact 
there has been none.’ 

The literature of the subject thus shows a very wide range of 
variation in the value which it assigns to dreams as psychical 
products. This range extends from the deepest disparagement, 
of the kind with which we have become familiar, through hints 
at a yet undisclosed worth, to an overvaluation which ranks 
dreams far higher than any of the functions of waking life. 
Hildebrandt (1875, 19 f.), who, as we have heard [see above, 
p. 9], has summed up the whole of the psychological features of 
dream-life in three antinomies, makes use of the two extreme ends 
of this range of values for his third paradox: ‘it is a contrast 
between an intensification of mental life, an enhancement of it 
that not infrequently amounts to virtuosity, and, on the other 
hand, a deterioration and enfeeblement which often sinks below 
the level of humanity. As regards the former, there are few of us 
who could not affirm, from our own experience, that there 
emerges from time to time in the creations and fabrics of the 
genius of dreams a depth and intimacy of eidption, a tenderness 
of feeling, a clarity of vision, a subtlety of observation, and a 
brilliance of wit such as we should never claim to have at our 
permanent command in our waking lives. There lies in dreams 
a marvellous poetry, an apt allegory, an incomparable humour, 
a rare irony. A dream looks upon the world in a light of strange 
idealism and often enhances the effects of what it sees by its 
deep understanding of their essential nature. It pictures earthly 
beauty to our eyes in a truly heavenly splendour and clothes 
dignity with the highest majesty, it shows us our everyday fears 
in the ghastliest shape and turns our amusement into jokes of 

^alyse the texture of dreams; their incoherence then becomes intellig- 
ible, and the most fantastic noUons become simple and perfectly logical 
facts • • • • We can even find a most logical explanation for the strangest 
dreams if we know how to analyse them.’ — ^This is not in fact a verbatim 
quotation from Hervey de Saint-Denys, but a paraphrase by Vaschide.] 


indescribable pungency. And sometimes, when we are aweike 
and still under the full impact of an experience like one of these, 
we cannot but feel that never in our life has the real world 
offered us its equal.’ 

We may well ask whether the disparaging remarks quoted 
on earlier pages and this enthusiastic eulogy can possibly relate 
to the same thing. Is it that some of our authorities have over- 
looked the nonsensical dreams and others the profound and 
subtle ones? And if dreams of both kinds occur, dreams that 
justify both estimates, may it not be a waste of time to look for 
any distinguishing psychological feature of dreams? Will it not 
be enough to say that in dreams anything is possible — from the 
deepest degradation of mental life to an exaltation of it which 
is rare in waking hours? However convenient a solution of this 
kind might be, what lies against it is the fact that all of the 
efforts at research into the problem of dreams seem to be based 
on a conviction that some distinguishing feature does exist, 
which is universally valid in its essential outline and which 
would clear these apparent contradictions out of the way. 

There can be no doubt that the psychical achievements of 
dreams received readier and warmer recognition during the 
intellectual period which has now been left behind, when 
the human mind was dominated by philosophy and not by the 
exact natural sciences. Pronouncements such as that by Schu- 
bert (1814, 20 f.) that dreams are a liberation of the spirit from 
the power of external nature, a freeing of the soul from the 
bonds of the senses, a 1 similar remarks by the younger Fichte 
(1864, 1, 143 f.)^ and • hers, all of which represent dreams as 
an elevation of mental iil'.; to a higher level, seem to us now to 
be scarcely intelligible; t^-day they are repeated only by 
mystics and pietists.* The int; r duction of the scientific mode of 
thought has brought along with it a reaction in the estimation of 
dreams. Medical writers in especial tend to regard psychical 
activity in dreams as trivial and valueless; while philosophers 
and non-professional observers — amateur psychologists — ^whose 

1 Cf. Haffner (1887) and Spitta (1882, Ilf.). 

* [Footnote added 1914:] That brilliant mystic Du Prel, one of the few 
authors for whose neglect in earlier editions of this book I should wish 
to express my regret, declares that the gateway to metaphysics, so far as 
men are concerned, lies not in waking life but in the diream. (Du Prel, 
1885, 59.) 


contributions to this particular subject are not to be despised, 
have (in closer alignment with popular feeling) retained a 
belief in the psychical value of dreams. Anyone who is inclined 
to take a low view of psychical functioning in dreams will 
naturally prefer to assign their source to somatic stimulation; 
whereas those who believe that the dreaming mind retains the 
greater part of its waking capacities have of course no reason 
for denying that the stimulus to dreaming can arise within the 
dreaming mind itself. 

Of the superior faculties which even a sober comparison may 
be inclined to attribute to dream-life, the most marked is that 
of memory; we have already [in Section B above] discussed,at 
length the not uncommon evidence in favour of this view. 
Another point of superiority in dream-life, often praised by 
earlier writers, — that it rises superior to distance in time and 
space — may easily be shown to have no basis in fact. As 
Hildebrandt (1875, [25]) points out, this advantage is an 
illusory one; for dreaming rises superior to time and space in 
precisely the same tvay as does waking thought, and for the 
very reason that it is merely a form of thought. It has been 
claimed for dreams that they enjoy yet another advantage over 
waking life in relation to time — that they are independent of the 
passage of time in yet another respect. Dreams such as the one 
dreamt by Maury of his own guillotining (see above, p. 26 f.) 
seem to show that a dream is able to compress into a very short 
space of time an amount of perceptual matter far greater than 
the amount of ideational matter that can be dealt with by our 
waking mind. This conclusion has however been countered by 
various arguments; since the papers by Le Lorrain (1894) and 
Egger (1895) on the apparent duration of dreams, a long and 
interesting discussion on the subject has developed, but it seems 
unlikely that the last word has yet been said on this subtle 
question and the deep implications which it involves.^ 

Reports of numerous cases as well as the collection of in- 
stances made by Chabaneix (1897) seem to put it beyond dis- 
pute that dreams can carry on the intellectual work of daytime 
and bring it to conclusions which had not been reached during 
the day, and that they can resolve doubts and problems and be 

^ [Footnote added 1914:] A further bibliography and a critical discus- 
sion of these problems will be found in Tobowolska (1900). [Gf. abo 
p. 496 f.] 


the source of new inspiration for poets and musical composers. 
But though the fact may be beyond dispute, its implications are 
open to many doubts, which raise matters of principle.^ 

Lastly, dreams are reputed to have the power of divining the 
future. Here we have a conflict in which almost insuperable 
scepticism is met by obstinately repeated assertions. No doubt 
we shall be acting rightly in not insisting that this view has no 
basis at all in fact, since it is possible that before long a number 
of the instances cited may find an explanation within the 
bounds of natural psychology.® 

® [Footnote added 1914:] Cf. the criticism in Havelock Ellis (191 1, 265). 
[See also below, p. 564.] 

* [Cf. the posthumously published paper by Freud (194le) printed as 
an Appendix at the end of this work (p. 623).] 



For reasons which will only become apparent after my own 
investigations into dreams have been taken into account, I have 
isolated from the subject of the psychology of dreams the special 
problem of whether and to what extent moral dispositions and 
feelings extend into dream-life. Here too we are met by the same 
contradictory views which, curiously enough, we have found 
adopted by different authors in regard to all the other functions 
of the mind during dreams. Some assert that the dictates of 
morality have no place in dreams, while others maintain no 
less positively that the moral character of man persists in his 

Appeal to the common experience of dreams seems to estab- 
lish beyond any doubt the correctness of the former of these 
views. Jessen (1855, 553) writes: ‘Nor do we become better or 
more virtuous in sleep. On the contrary, conscience seem? ^o be 
silent in dreams, for we feel no pity in them and may C' lumit 
the worst crimes — theft, violence and murder — with coniplete 
indifference and with no subsequent feelings of remorse.' 

Radestock (1879, 164): ‘It should be borne in mind that 
associations occur and ideas are linked together in dreams with- 
out any regard for reflection, common sense, aesthetic taste or 
moral judgement. Judgement is extremely weak and ethical 
indifference reigns supreme.’ 

Volkelt (1875, 23): ‘In dreams, as we are all aware, proceed- 
ings are especially unbridled in sexual matters. The dreamer 
himself is utterly shameless and devoid of any moral feeling or 
judgement; moreover, he sees everyone else, including those for 
whom he has the deepest respect, engaged in acts with which he 
'would be horrified to associate them while he was awake, even 
in his thoughts.’ >, fvl 'I" /i ' vj 

In diametrical opposition to these, we find statements such as 
Schopenhauer’s [1862, 1, 245] that everyone who figures in a 
dream acts and speaks in complete accordance with his char- 
acter. K. P. Fischer (1850, 72 f.), quoted by Spitta (1882, 188), 
declares that subjective feelings and longings, or affects and 




passions, reveal themselves in the freedom of dream-life, and 
that people’s moral characteristics are reflected in their dreams. 

Haffner (1884, 251): ‘With rare exceptions ... a virtuous 
man will be virtuous in his dreams as well; he will resist tempta- 
tions and win keep himself aloof from hatred, envy, anger and 
all other vices. But a sinful man will as a rule find in his dreams 
the same images that he had before his eyes while he was 

Scholz [Jewett’s translation, 1893, 62]: ‘In dreams is truth: in 
dreams we learn to know ourselves as we are in spite of all the 
disguises we wear to the world, [whether they be ennobling or 
humiliating]. . . . The honourable man cannot commit a crime 
in dreams, or if he does he is horrified over it as over something 
contrary to his nature. The Roman Emperor who put a man to 
death who had dreamt that he had assassinated the ruler, was 
justified in so doing if he reasoned that the thoughts one has in 
dreams, one has, too, when awake. The common expression “I 
wouldn’t dream of such a thing” has a doubly correct signific- 
ance when it refers to something which can have no lodgement 
in our hearts or mind.’ (Plato, on the contrary, thought that 
the best men are those who only dream what other men do in 
their waking life.) ^ 

Pfaff (1868, [9]), quoted by Spitta (1882, 192), alters the 
wording of a familiar saying: ‘Tell me some of your dreams, and 
I will tell you about your inner self.’ 

The problem of morality in dreams is taken as the centre of 
interest by Hildebrandt, from whose small volume I have 
already quoted so much — for, of all the contributions to the 
study of dreams which I have come across, it is the most perfect 
in form and the richest in ideas. Hildebrandt [1875, 54] too lays 
it down as a rule that the purer the life the purer the dream, 
and the more impure the one the more impure the other. He 
believes that man’s moral nature persists in dreams. ‘Whereas’, 
he writes, ‘even the grossest mistake in arithmetic,- even the 
most romantic reversal of scientific laws, even the most ridicul- 
ous anachronism fails to upset us or even to arouse our sus- 
picions, yet we never lose sight of the distinction'between good 
and evil, between right and wrong or between virtue and vice. 

^ [This sentence was added in 1914. Gf. also p. 620. The referenced 
no doubt to the opening sections of Book IX of the Republic. {Trans., 
1871, 409 f.)] 


However much of what accompanies us in the daytime may 
drop away in our sleeping hours, Kant’s categorical imperative 
is a companion who follows so close at our heels that we cannot 
be free of it even in sleep. . . . But this can only be explained by 
the fact that what is fundamental in man’s nature, his moral 
being, is too firmly fixed to be affected by the kaleidoscopic 
shuffling to which the imagination, the reason, the memory and 
other such faculties must submit in dreams.’ (Ibid., 45 f.) 

As the discussion of this subject proceeds, however, both 
groups of writers begin to exhibit remarkable shifts and incon- 
sistencies in their opinions. Those who maintain that the moral 
personality of man ceases to operate in dreams should, in strict 
logic, lose all interest in immoral dreams. They could rule out 
any attempt at holding a dreamer responsible for his dreams, 
or at deducing from the wickedness of his dreams that he had 
an evil streak in his character, just as confidently as they would 
reject a similar attempt at deducing from the absurdity of his 
dreams that his intellectual activities in waking life were worth- 
less. The other group, who believe that the ‘categorical impera- 
tive’ extends to dreams, should logically accept unqualified 
responsibility for immoral dreams. We could only hope for their 
sake that they would have no such reprehensible dreams of 
their own to upset their firm beliefin their own moral character. 

It appears, however, that no one is as confident ac all that of 
how far he is good or bad, and that no one can deny the recollec- 
tion of immoral dreams of his own. For writers in both groups, 
irrespective of the opposition between their opinions on dream- 
morality, make efforts at explaining the origin of immoral 
dreams; and a fresh difference of opinion develops, accord- 
ing as their origin is sought in the functions of the mind or in 
deleterious effects produced on the mind by somatic causes. 
Thus the compelling logic of facts forces the supporters of both 
the responsibility and the irresponsibility of dream-life to unite 
in recognizing that the immorality of dreams has a specific 
psychical source. 

Those who believe that morality extends to dreams are, how- 
ever, all careful to avoid assuming complete responsibility for 
their dreams. Thus Haffner (1887, 250) writes: ‘We are not 
responsible for our dreams, since our thought and will have 
been deprived in them of the basis upon which alone our life 
possesses truth and reality . . . For that reason no dream-wishes 



or dream-actions can be virtuous or sinful.’ Nevertheless, he 
goes on, men are responsible for their sinful dreams in so far as 
they cause them indirectly. They have the duty of morally 
cleansing their minds not only in their waking life but more 
especially before going to sleep. 

BQldebrandt [1875, 48 f.] presents us with a far deeper 
analysis of this mingled rejection and acceptance of responsi- 
bility for the moral content of dreams. He argues that in con- 
sidering the immoral appearance of dreams allowance must be 
made for the dramatic form in which they are couched, for their 
compression of the most complicated processes of reflection into 
the briefest periods of time, as well as for the way in which, as 
even he admits, the ideational elements of dreams become con- 
fused and deprived of their significance. He confesses that he 
has the greatest hesitation, nevertheless, in thinking that all 
responsibility for sins and faults in dreams can be repudiated. 

‘When we are anxious to disown some unjust accusation, 
especially one that relates to our aims and intentions, we often 
use the phrase “I should never dream of such a thing”. We are 
in that way expressing, on the one hand, our feeling that the 
region of dreams is the most remote and furthest in which we 
are answerable for our thoughts, since thoughts in that region 
are so loosely connected with our essential self that they are 
scarcely to be regarded as ours; but nevertheless, since we feel 
obliged expressly to deny the existence of these thoughts in this 
region, we are at the same time admitting indirectly that our 
self-justification would not be complete unless it extended so 
far. And I think that in this we are speaking, although un- 
consciously, the language of truth.’ (Ibid., 49.) 

Tt is impossible to think of any action in a dream for which 
the original motive has not in some way or. other — whether as 
a wish, or desire or impulse — passed through the waking mind.’ 
We must admit, Hildebrandt proceeds, that this original im- 
pulse was not invented by the dream; the dream merely copied 
it and spun it out, il xrely elaborated in dramatic form a scrap 
of historical material which it had found in us; it merely drama- 
tized the Apostle’s words: ‘Whosoever hateth his brother is a 
murderer.’ [1 John iii, 15.] And although after we have awoken, 
conscious of our moral strength, we may smile at the whole 
elaborate structure of the sinful dream, yet the original material 
from which the structure was derived will fail to raise a smile. 


Wc feel responsible for the dreamer’s errors — not for the whole 
amount of them, but for a certain percentage. ‘In short, if we 
understand in this scarcely disputable sense Christ’s saying that 
“out of the heart proceed evil thoughts” [Matt, xv, 19], we 
can hardly escape the conviction that a sin committed in a 
dream bears with it at Iciist an obscure minimum of guilt. 
(Hildebrandt, 1875, 51 ff.) 

Thus Hildebrandt finds the source of immorality in dreams 
in the germs and hints of evil impulses which, in the form of 
temptations, pass through our minds during the day; and he 
docs not hesitate to include these immoral elements in his 
estimate of a person’s moral value. These same thoughts, as we 
know, and this same estimate of them, are what have led the 
pious and saintly in every age to confess themselves miserable 

There can of course be no doubt as to the general existence 
of such incompatible ideas; they occur in most people and in 
spheres other than that of ethics. Sometimes, however, they 
have been judged less seriously. Spitta (1882, 194) quotes some 
remarks by Zeller [1818, 120-1], which arc relevant in this 
connection: ‘A mind is seldom so happily organized as to 
possess complete power at every moment and not to have the 
regular and clear course of its thoughts constantly interrupted 
not only by inessential but by positively grotesque and non- 
sensical ideas. Indeed, tiic greatest thinkers have had to com- 
plain of this dreamlike, leasing and tormenting rabble of ideas, 
tvhich have disturbed their deepest reflections and their most 
solemn and earnest thoughts.’ 

A more revealing light is thrown upon the psychological 
position oi' these incompatible thoughts by another remark of 
Hildebrandt’s (1875, 55), to tiie effect that dreams give us an 
occasional glimpse into depths and recesses of our nature to 
which we usually ha\ e no access in our waking state. Kant 
expresses the same idea in a pa.ssagc in his AtOkrapologie [1798]® 

’ 1914:] Iiisofsomcintcrcsttolcam the attitude of the 

Inquisition to our pixjblcin. In Caesar Caxefia’s Tractatus de O^do 
ssncfissiinat Irupasitimis, 1{>59, the following passage occurs: 'If anyone 
speaks heresies in a dream, the inquisitors should take occasion to 
enquire into his way of life, for what occupies a mao during the day is 
wont to cotnc again in his sleep.* (Cbrnmunicatied by Dr. Ehn^er, St. 
Urban, Switzerland.) 

® [Not ti-accable,] 


in which he declares that dreams seem to exist in order to show 
us our hidden natures and to reveal to us, not what we are, but 
what we might have been if we had been brought up differently. 
Radestock (1879, 84), too, says that dreams often do no more 
than reveal to us what we would not admit to ourselves and 
that it is therefore unfair of us to stigmatize them as liars and 
deceivers. Erdmann [1852, 115] writes: ‘Dreams have never 
shown me what I ought to think of a man; but I have occasion- 
ally learnt from a dream, greatly to my own astonishment, 
what I do think of a man and how I feel towards him.’ Similarly 
I. H. Fichte (1864, 1, 539) remarks: ‘The nature of our dreams 
gives a far more truthful reflection of our whole disposition than 
we are able to learn of it from self-observation in waking life.’^ 

It will be seen that the emergence of impulses which are 
foreign to our moral consciousness is merely analogous to what 
we have already learnt — the fact that dreams have access to 
ideational material which is absent in our waking state or plays 
but a small part in it. Thus Benini (1898) writes: ‘Gerte nostre 
inclinazioni che si credevano suffocate e spente da un pezzo, si 
ridestano; passioni vecchie e sepolte rivivono; cose e persone a 
cui non pensiamo mai, ci vengono dinanzi.’® And Volkelt (1875, 
105): ‘Ideas, too, which have entered waking consciousness 
almost unnoticed and have perhaps never again been called to 
memory, very frequently announce their presence in the mind 
through dreams.’ At this point, finally, we may recall Schleier- 
macher’s assertion [see above, p. 49] that the act of falling 
asleep is accompanied by the appearance of ‘involuntary ideas’ 
or images. 

We may, then, class togetlier under the heading of ‘involun- 
tary ideas’ the whole of the ideational material the emergence 
of which, alike in immoral and in absurd dreams, causes us so 
much bewilderment. There is, however, one important point 
of difference: involuntary ideas in the moral sphere contradict 
our usual attitude of mind, whereas the others merely strike us 
as strange. No step has yet been taken towards a deeper know- 
ledge which would resolve this distinction. 

The question next arises as to the signijicanee of the appearance 

^ [The two last sentences were added in 1914.] 

* [‘Certain of our desires which have seemed for a time to be stili-jd 
and extinguished are re-awakened; old and buried passions come to life 
again; things and persons of whom we never think appear before us.’] 


of involuntary ideas in dreams, as to the light which the emerg- 
ence during the night of these morally incompatible impulses 
throws upon the psychology of the waking and dreaming mind. 
And here we find a fresh division of opinion and yet another 
different grouping of the authorities. The line of thought 
adopted by Hildcbrandt and others who share his fundamental 
position inevitably leads to the view that immoral impulses 
possess a certain degree of power even in waking life, though 
it is an inhibited power, unable to force its way into action, and 
that in sleep something is put out of action which acts like an 
inhibition in the daytime and has prevented us from being 
aware of the existence of such impulses. Thus dreams would 
reveal the true nature of man, tliough not his whole nature, and 
they would constitute one means of rendering the hidden 
interior of the mind accessible to our knowledge. Only upon 
some such premises as these can Hildebrandt [1875, 56] base 
his attribution to dreams of warning powers, which draw our 
attention to moral infirmities in our mind, just as physicians 
admit that dreams can bring unobseiTed physical illnesses to 
our conscious notice. So, too, Spitta must be adopting this \dew 
when, in speaking [1882, 193 f.] of the sources of excitation 
which impinge upon the mind (at puberty, for instance), he 
consoles the dreamer with the assurance that he will have done 
all that lies within his power if he leads a strictly virtuous life 
in his waking hours, and if he takes care to suppress sinful 
thoughts whenever they arise and to prevent their maturing and 
turning into acts. According to this view we might define the 
‘involuntary ideas’ as ideas which had been ‘suppressed’ during 
the day, and we should have to regard their emergence as a 
genuine mental phenomenon. 

Other writers, however, regard tlris last conclusion as unjusti- 
fiable. Thus Jessen (1855) believes that involuntary ideas, both 
in dreams and in waking, and in feverish and other delirious 
conditions, ‘have the character of a volitional activity that has 
been put to rest and of a more or less mechanical succession of 
images and ideas provoked by internal impulses’. All that an 
immoral dream proves as to the dreamer’s mental life is, in 
Jessen’s view, that on some occasion he had cognizance of the 
ideational content in question; it is certainly no evidence of a 
mental impulse of the dreamer’s own. 

As regards another writer, Maury, it would almost seem as 



though he too attributes to the dreaming condition a capacity, 
not for the arbitrary destruction of mental activity, but for 
analysing it into its components. He writes as follows of dreams 
which transgress the bounds of morality: ‘Ce sont nos penchants 
qui parlent et qui nous font agir, sans que la conscience nous 
retienne, bien que parfois elle nous avertisse. J’ai mes defauts et 
mes penchants ^^cieux,• a I’etat de veille je tache de lutter centre 
eux, et il m’ arrive assez souvent de n’y pas succomber. Mais dans 
mes songes j’y succombe toujours ou pour mieux dire j’agis par 
leur impulsion, sans crainte et sans remords. . . . Evidemment 
les visions qui se deroulent devant ma pensee et qui constituentle 
rSve, me sont suggerees par les incitations que je ressens et quema 
volonte absente ne cherche pas a refouler.’ (Maury, 1878, 1 13.)^ 

No one who believes in the capacity of dreams to reveal an 
immoral tendency of the dreamer’s which is really present 
though suppressed or concealed, could express his view more 
precisely than in Maury’s words: ‘En reve I’homme se revfele 
done tout entier a soi-meme dans sa nudite et sa misere natives. 
D^s qu’il suspend I’exercice de sa volonte, il devient le jouet de 
toutes les passions contres lesquelles, a I’etat de veille, la con- 
science, le sentiment de I’honneur, la crainte nous defendent.' 
(Ibid., 165.)* In another passage we find these pertinent sen- 
tences: ‘Dans le songe, e’est surtout I’homme instinctif qui se 
revile. . . . L’homme revient pour ainsi dire a I’etat de nature 
quand il reve; mais moins les idees acquises ont penetre dans 
son esprit, plus les penchants cn desaccord avec elles conservent 
encore sur lui I’influence dans le reve.’ (Ibid., 462.)* He goes on 

' [‘It is our impulses that are speaking and making us act, while our 
conscience does not hold us back, though it sometimes warns us. I have 
my faults and my vicious impulse; while I am awake I try to resist 
them, and quite often I succeed in not yielding to them. But in my 
dreams I always yield to them, or rather I act under their pressure with- 
out fear or remorse. . . . The visions which unroll before my mind and 
which constitute a dream are clearly suggested by the urges which I feel 
and which my absent will does not attempt to repress.’] 

® [‘Thus in dreams a man stands self-revealed in all his native naked- 
ness and poverty. As soon as he suspends the exercise of his will, he be- 
comes the plaything of all the passions against which he is defended 
while he is awake by his conscience, his sense of honour and his fears.’] 

* [‘What is revealed in dreams is primarily the man of instinct. . . . 
Man may be said to return in his dreams to a state of nature. But the 
less his mind has been penetrated by acquired ideas, the more it remains 
influenced in dreams by impulses of a contrary nature.’] 



lo rclaie by way of esample how in his dreams he is not infre- 
quently the \dctim of the ver\- supersdton which he has been 
attacking in his wridngs tdih particular vehemence. 

These penetrating reflections of Mauiy' s. howea-er, lose their 
value in the investigation of dream-life o\sing to the fact that he 
regards the phenomena which he has obsers'ed wdth such 
accuracy as no more than proofs of an 'automaiismi pr^hshpque' 
which, in his ^dew. domanates dreams and v,-hich he looks upon 
as the exact opposite of mental acmatN-. 

Strieker (1879, [51]) iviires: "Dreams do not consist soldy of 
illusions. If, for instance, one is afraid of robbers in a dreano, She 
robbers, it is true, are imaginaiy — but the fear is real.’ This 
calls our attention to the feet that qp-cis in dreams, cannot be 
judged in the same ■\ray as the remamder of their content; and 
we are faced by the problem of what part of the psj’chical pro- 
ceses occurring in dreams is to be regarded as reaL that is to 
say, has a claim to be classed among the psychical processes of 
rvakdng life.^ 

* [The qiKstkm o£ affects in dreams is discussed in Section H of 
Chapter (p. 460 ff.). The whtde topic of moral re^rooHihality fi>r 
dreamsis touched upon bdow on p. 620 f. and consadeted at gteater 
ks^th in Sectioa B oTFmid 1923t.] 



Any disquisition upon dreams which seeks to explain as many 
as possible of their observed characteristics from a particular 
point of view, and which at the same time defines the position 
occupied by dreams in a wider sphere of phenomena, deserves 
to be called a theory of dreams. The various theories will be 
found to differ in that they select one or the other character- 
istic of dreams as the essential one and take it as the point of 
departure for their explanations and correlations. It need not 
necessarily be possible to infer a function of dreaming (whether 
utilitarian or otherwise) from the theory. Nevertheless, since we 
have a habit of looking for teleological explanations, we shall 
be more ready to accept theories which are bound up with the 
attribution of a function to dreaming. 

We have already made the acquaintance of several sets of 
views which deserve more or less to be called theories of dreams 
in this sense of the term. The belief held in antiquity that 
dreams were sent by the gods in order to guide the actions of 
men was a complete theory of dreams, giving information on 
everything worth knowing about them. Since dreams have 
become an object of scientific research a considerable number 
of theories have been developed, including some that are 
extremely incomplete. 

Without attempting any exhaustive enumeration, we may 
try to divide theories of dreams into the following three rough 
groups, according to their underlying assumptions as to the 
amount and nature of psychical activity in dreams. 

(1) There are the theories, such as that of Delboeuf [1885, 
221 f.], according to which the whole of psychical activity con- 
tinues in dreams. The mind, they assume, does not sleep and 
its apparatus remains intact; but, since it falls under the con- 
ditions of the state of sleep, which differ from those of waking 
life, its normal functioning necessarily produces different results 
during sleep. The question arises in regard to these theories 
whether they are capable of deriving all the distinctions between 



dreams and waking thought from the conditions of the state of 
sleep. Moreover, there is no possibility of their being able to 
suggest any function for dreaming; they offer no reason why we 
should dream, why the complicated mechanism of the mental 
apparatus should continue to operate even when set in circum- 
stances for which it appears undesigned. Either dreamless sleep 
or, if disturbing stimuli intervene, awakening, would seem to be 
the only expedient reactions — ^rather than the third alternative 
of dreaming. 

(2) There are the theories which, on the contrary, pre- 
suppose that dreams imply a lowering of psychical activity, a 
loosening of connections, and an impoverishment of the material 
accessible. These theories must imply the attribution to sleep of 
characteristics quite different from those suggested, for instance, 
by Delboeuf. Sleep, according to such theories, has a far- 
reaching influence upon the mind; it does not consist merely in 
the mind being shut off from the external world; it forces its way, 
rather, into the mental mechanism and throws it temporarily 
out of use. If I may venture on a simile from the sphere of 
psychiatry, the first group of theories construct dreams on the 
model of paranoia, while the second group make them resemble 
mental deficiency or confusional states. 

The theory according to which only a fragment of mental 
activity finds expression in dreams, since it has been paralysed 
by sleep, is by far the most popular with medical writers and in 
the scientific world generally. In so far as any general interest 
may be supposed to exist in the explanation of dreams, this may 
be described as the ruling theory. It is to be remarked how 
easily this theory avoids the worst stumbling-block in the way 
of any explanation of dreams — the difficulty of dealing with the 
contradictions involved in them. It regards dreams as a result of 
a partial awakening — ‘a gradual, partial and at the same time 
highly abnormal awakening’, to quote a remark of Herbart’s 
upon dreams (1892, 307). Thus, this theory can make use of a 
series of conditions of ever-increasing wakefulness, culminating 
in the completely waking state, in order to account for the 
series of variations in efficiency of mental functioning in dreams, 
ranging from the inefficiency revealed by their occasional 
absurdity up to fully concentrated intellectual functioning. [See 

p. 180.] 


Those who find that they cannot dispense with a statement in 
terms of physiology, or to whom a statement in such terms 
seems more scientific, will find what they want in the account 
given by Binz (1878, 43): ‘This condition’ (of torpor) ‘comes to 
an end in the early hours of the morning, but only by degrees. 
The products of fatigue which have accumulated in the albumen 
of the brain gradually diminish; more and more of them are 
decomposed or eliminated by the unceasing flow of the blood- 
stream. Here and there separate groups of cells begin to emerge 
into wakefulness, while the torpid state still persists all around 
them. The isolated work of these separate groups now appears 
before our clouded consciousness, unchecked by other portions 
of the brain which govern the process of association. For that 
reason the images produced, which correspond for the most 
part to material impressions of the more recent past, are strung 
together in a wild and irregular manner. The number of the 
liberated brain-cells constantly grows and the senselessness of 
the dreams correspondingly diminishes.’ 

This view of dreaming as an incomplete, partial waking state 
is no doubt to be found in the writings of every modern physio- 
logist and philosopher. The most elaborate exposition of it is 
given by Maury (1878, 6 f.). It often appears as though that 
author imagined that the waking or sleeping state could be 
shifted from one anatomical region to another, each particular 
anatomical region being linked to one particular psychical 
function. I will merely remark at this point that, even if the 
theory of partial waking W’ere confirmed, its details would still 
remain very much open to discussion. 

This view naturally leaves no room for assigning any function 
to dreaming. The logical conclusion that follows from it as to 
the position and significance of dreams is correctly stated by 
Binz (1878, 35) ; ‘Every observed fact forces us to conclude that 
dreams must be characterized as somatic processes, which are in 
every case useless and in many cases positively pathological. . . .’ 

The application to dreams of the term ‘somatic’, which is 
italicized by Binz himself, has more than one bearing. It 
alludes, in the first place, to the aetiology of dreams which seemed 
particularly plausible to Binz when he studied the experimental 
production of dreams by the use of toxic substances. For 
theories of this kind involve a tendency to limit the instigation 
of dreams so far as possible to somatic causes. Put in its most 


extreme form the view is as follows. Once we have put our- 
selves to sleep by excluding all stimuli, there is no need and 
no occasion for dreaming until the morning, when the process 
of being gradually awakened by the impact of fresh stimuli 
might be reflected in the phenomenon of dreaming. It is im- 
practicable, however, to keep our sleep free from stimuli; they 
impinge upon the sleeper from all sides — like the germs of life 
of which Mephistopheles complained^ — ^from without and from 
within and even from parts of his body which are quite un- 
noticed in waking life. Thus sleep is disturbed; first one corner 
of the mind is shaken into wakefulness and then another; the 
mind functions for a brief moment with its awakened portion 
and is then glad to fall asleep once more. Dreams are a reaction 
to the disturbance of sleep brought about by a stimulus — a 
reaction, incidentally, which is quite superfluous. 

But the description of dreaming — which, after all is said and 
done, remains a function of the mind — as a somatic process 
implies another meaning as well. It is intended to show that 
dreams are unworthy to rank as psychical processes. Dreaming 
has often been compared with ‘the ten fingers of a man who 
knows nothing of music wandering over the keys of a piano’ 
[Strtimpell, 1877, 84; cf. p. 222 below]; and this simile shows as 
well as anything the sort of opinion that is usually held of 
dreaming by representatives of the exact sciences. On this view 
a dream is something wholly and completely incapable of inter- 
pretation; for how could the ten fingers of an unmusical player 
produce a piece of music? 

Even in the distant past there was no lack of critics of the 
theory of partial waking. Thus Burdach (1838, 508 f.) wrote: 
‘When it is said that dreams are a partial waking, in the first 
place this throws no light either on waking or on sleeping, and 
in the second place it says no more than that some mental 
forces are active in dreams while others are at rest. But vari- 
ability of this kind occurs throughout life.’ 

This ruling theory, which regards dreams as a somatic pro- 
cess, underlies a most interesting hypothesis put forward for the 

§ [In his first conversation with Faust (Part I, [Scene 3]), Mephis- 
topheles complained bitterly that his destructive efforts were perpetually 
frustrated by the emergence of thousands of fresh germs of life. The 
whole passage is quoted by Freud in a footnote to Section VI of CioilUa- 
tim ami its Disamantt (1930a).] < 


first time by Robert in 1886. It is particularly attractive since it 
is able to suggest a function, a utilitarian purpose, for dreaming. 
Robert takes as the groundwork of his theory two facts of 
observation which we have already considered in the course of 
our examination of the material of dreams (see above, p. 1 8 flf.) , 
namely that we dream so frequently of the most trivial daily 
impressions and that we so rarely carry over into our dreams 
our important daily interests. Robert (1886, 10) asserts that it 
is universally true that things which we have thoroughly thought 
out never become instigators of dreams but only things which 
are in our minds in an uncompleted shape or which have merely 
been touched upon by our thoughts in passing; ‘The reason 
why it is usually impossible to explain dreams is precisely 
because they are caused by sensory impressions of the preceding 
day which failed to attract enough of the dreamer’s attention.’ 
[Ibid., 19-20.] Thus the condition which determines whether 
an impression shall find its way into a dream is whether the 
process of working over the impression was interrupted or 
whether the impression was too unimportant to have a right to 
be worked over at all. 

Robert describes dreams as ‘a somatic process of excretion of 
which we become aware in our mental reaction to it’. [Ibid., 9.] 
Dreams are excretions of thoughts that have been stifled at 
birth. ‘A man deprived of the capacity for dreaming would in 
course of time become mentally deranged, because a great mass 
of uncompleted, unworked-out thoughts and superficial im- 
pressions would accumulate in his brain and would be bound 
by their bulk to smother the thoughts which should be assimil- 
ated into his memory as completed wholes.’ [Ibid., 10.] Dreanss 
serve as a safety-valve for the over-burdened brain. They possess 
the power to heal and relieve. (Ibid., 32.) 

We should be misunderstanding Robert if we were to ask 
him how it can come about that the mind is relieved through 
the presentation of ideas in dreams. What Robert is clearly do- 
ing is to infer from these two features of the material of dreams 
that by some means or other an expulsion of worthless impres- 
sions is accomplished during sleep as a somatic process, and that 
dreaming is not a special sort of psychical process but merely the 
information we receive of that expulsion. Moreover, excretion 
is not the only event which occurs in the mind at night. Robert 
himself adds that, besides this, the suggestions arising during 


the previous day are worked out and that ‘whatever parts of the 
undigested thoughts are not excreted are bound together into a 
rounded whole by threads of thought borrowed from tlie imagin- 
ation and thus inserted in the memory as a harmless imaginative 
picture.’ (Ibid., 23.) 

But Robert’s theory is diametrically opposed to the ruling one 
in its estimate of the nature of the sources of dreams. According 
to the latter, there would be no dreaming at all if tire mind 
were not being constantly wakened by external and internal 
sensory stimuli. But in Robert’s view the impulsion to dreaming 
arises in the mind itself — in the fact of its becoming overloaded 
and requiring relief; and he concludes with perfect logic that 
causes derived from somatic conditions play a subordinate part 
as determinants of dreams, and that such causes would be quite 
incapable of provoking dreams in a mind in which there was no 
material for the construction of dreams derived from waking 
consciousness. The only qualification he makes is to admit that 
the phantasy-images arising in dreams out of the depths of the 
mind may be affected by nervous stimuli. (Ibid., 48.) After aU, 
therefore, Robert does not regard dreams as so completely 
dependent upon somatic events. Nevertheless, in his view 
dreams are not psychical processes, they have no place among 
the psychical processes of waking life; they are somatic pro- 
cesses occurring every night in the apparatus that is concerned 
with mental activity, and they have as their function the task of 
protecting that apparatus from excessive tension — or, to change 
the metaphor — of acting as scavengers of the mind.^ 

Another writer, Yves Delage, bases his theory on the same 
features of dreams, as revealed in the choice of their material; 
and it is instructive to notice the way in which a slight variation 
in his riew of the same things leads him to conclusions of a very 
different bearing. 

Delage (1891, 41) tells us that he experienced in his own 
person, on the occasion of th e death of someone of whom he was 
fond, the fact that we do not dream of what has occupied all our 
thoughts during the day, or not until it has begun to give place 

1 [Robert’s theory is further discussed on pp. 177 f. and 579. — ^In the 
course of a footnote to Studies on Hysteria (Breuer and Freud, 1895), 
quoted in the Editor's Introduction, p. xiv f., Freud accepted this theory 
of Robert’s as desciibmg' one of tfae two main fajtnrs. la the production 
of dreams.] 


tO' other daytime coneeruts.. His investigatioiis among othorr 
people eonfiraiedhim in the general truth of this fact He mak^s 
what, would be an interesting observation of this kind,, ifiitit: 
should, pi'ove to have general validity, on the dreams of youaig.;; 
married, couples: ‘S'iis ont etc fortement cpris, ptesque jamaiais 
lIs. n’ont reve Tun de I’autre avant le iimriage on peirdantiala 
lune de miel; et s’ils; ont reve d’ amour test poimr ctre infidd^s 
avee quelque personne indifferente ou odieuse.’’- [IbidT 413.] 
What, then, do we dream of? Delage identifies the rTtaterial thitit 
occurs in our dreams as consisting of fragments and residuesEQfci' 
the preceding days and of earlier times. Everything tliat appeaaai s 
incur dreams, even ' re arc inclined at first to regardriti" 
as a creation of our dream-iife, turns ont, vdven we hisB-o 
examined it more closely, to ce tinrccce nixed repiodtiction^dfiv'' 
matciiiii ah’eady experienced] — soeveuir iticonscienth^ Bffitii: 
this ideational material possesses a .-emman characteristictcitii 
originates frani impressions I'diicii probably affecred ourseitaescs 
morestrongiy than our iareliigence or from ivhiehonrattentMafflii 
was: diverted very' soon afier the>" emerged. The less. Gonsdoimi' 
and at the same time the more powerthl an impression has bcKigiTi . 
the mate chance ic has of playing a part in the next dream:;. 

Here we have what are essentially the same two categcaucrof 
impressions as are stressed by Robert: the tiivial ones: and filM®®;. 
that have not been dealt ndtli. Dclage, however, gives thfc 
situation a different turn, for lie holds that it: is. because tlieas ' 
impressions: have not been dealt "isuLh that they are capabfeiof ^ 
producing di cams, not because tiles’" are trivraL It is true: iriia 
certain sense :.uat tnvial iinprc-ssions, to®,, have nest been dealfi-l' 
with ccmrpleteiy; being in the nature of fresh iir^ressions, they 
are ‘autant de ressorrs tcndu.s'® which are released' daring si etqE, 
A powerful impression ’vl ich happens to have met with soiMe; 
check in the proces.s of being ivorked over or' which has betat: 
purposety held iinder restraint has more claiirn to play a partira 
dcBscBis: than an impression ivhicfe is weaitiasid ' alMsoist';' uiitt;' 
nodcisdr The psychical energy v'hicfo haB^beBM'stswed.kpffaBing':- 

* [‘lEtfaey were deeply in lovei i3ieyalttffost:isewerdi!eanwirGifie3ch: btfeiir: : 
bdf^e'tmvriage. or dtseiny their' honeymnon^: and^^if : thby hadi erotic; ' 
defetfiaas they were nnfe.i'thfta'l in' them with some; fiidMferentJW rcpellhiiii; i 

® [lUhconscious- memory.’] 



flashes out of these mystical agglomerations, these clouds of 
glory and splendour — but they do not illuminate a philosopher’s 
path.’ It is in these terms tliat Schemer’s writings are judged 
even by his disciple. [Volkelt, 1875, 29.] 

Schemer is not one of those who believe that the capacities 
of the mind continue undiminished in dream-life. He himself 
[in Volkelt’s words (ibid., 30)] shows how the centralized core of 
the ego — ^its spontaneous energy — is deprived of its nervous 
force in dreams, how as a result of this decentralization the pro- 
cesses of cognition, feeling, willing and ideation are modified, 
and how the remnants of these psychical functions no longer 
possess a tmly mental character but become nothing more than 
mechanisms. But by way of contrast, the mental activity which 
may be described as ‘imagination’, liberated from the domina- 
tion of reason and from any moderating control, leaps into a 
position of unlimited sovereignty. Though dream-imagination 
makes use of recent w'aking memories for its building material, it 
erects them into structures bearing not the remotest resemblance 
to those of waking life; it reveals itself in dreams as possessing not 
merely reproductive hMt productive powers. [Ibid., 31,] Its char- 
acteristics are what lend their peculiar features to dreams. It 
shows a preference for what is immoderate, exaggerated and 
monstrous. But at the same time, being freed from the hind- 
rances of the categories of thought, it gains in pliancy, agility 
and versatility. It is susceptible in the subtlest manner to 
the shades of the tender feelings and to passionate emotions, 
and promptly incorporates our inner life into external plastic 
pictures. Imagination in dreams is without the power of concep- 
tual speech. It is obliged to paint what it has to say pictorially, 
and, since there are no concepts to exercise an attenuating 
influence, it makes full and powerful use of the pictorial form. 
Thus, however clear its speech may be, it is diffuse, clumsy and 
awkward. The clarity of its speech suffers particularly from the 
fact that it has a dislike of representing an object by its proper 
image, and prefers some extraneous image which will express 
only that particular one of the object’s attributes which it is 
seeking to represent. Here we have the ‘symbolizing activity’ of 
the imagination. . . . [Ibid., 32.] Another very important point 
is that dream-imagination never depicts things completely, but 
only in outline and even so only in the roughest fashion. For 
this reason its paintings seem like inspired sketches. It does not 


halt, however, at the mere representation of an object; it is 
vmder an internal necessity to involve the dream-ego to a 
greater or less extent with the object and thus produce an event. 
For instance, a dream caused by a visual stimulus may repre- 
sent gold coins in the street; the dreamer will pick them up 
delightedly and carry them off. [Ibid., 33.] 

The material with which dream-imagination accomplishes 
its artistic work is principally, according to Schemer, provided 
by the organic somatic stimuli which are so obscure during the 
daytime. (See above, p. 33 ff.) Thus the excessively fantastic 
hypothesis put forward by Schemer and the perhaps unduly 
sober doctrines of IVundt and otlier physiologists, which are 
poles asunder in other respects, are entirely at one in regard to 
their theory of the sources and instigators of dreams. According 
to the physiological vietv, however, the mental reaction to the 
internal somatic stimuli is exhausted with the provoking of 
certain ideas appropriate to the stimuli; these ideas give rise to 
others along associative lines and at this point the course of 
psychical events in dreams seems to be at an end. According to 
Schemer, on the other hand, the somatic stimuli do no more 
than provide the mind with material of which it can make use 
for its imaginative purposes. The formation of dreams only 
begins, in Schemer’s eyes, at the point which the other writers 
regard as its end. 

What dream-imagination does to the somatic stimuli cannot, 
of course, be regarded as serving any useful purpose. It plays 
about tvith them, and pictures the organic sources, from which 
the stimuli of the dream in question have arisen, in some kind 
of plastic symbolism. Schemer is of the opinion — though here 
Volkelt [1875, 37] and others refuse to follow him — that dream- 
imagination has one particular favourite way of representing 
the organism as a whole: namely as a house. Fortunately, how- 
ever, it does not seem to be restricted to this one method of 
representation. On the other hand, it may make use of a whole 
row of houses to indicate a single organ; for instance, a very long 
street of houses may represent a stimulus from the intestines. 
Again, separate portions of a house may stand for separate 
portions of the body; thus, in a dream caused by a headache, 
the head may be represented by the ceiling of a room covered 
with disgusting, toad-like spiders. [Ibid., 33 f.] 

Leaving this house-symbolism on one side, any number of 


Other kinds of things may be used to represent the parts of the 
body from which the stimulus to the dream has arisen. ‘Thus 
the breathing lung will be symbolically represented by a blazing 
furnace, with flames roaring with a sound like the passage of 
air; the heart will be represented by hollow boxes or baskets, 
the bladder by round, bag-shaped objects or, more generally, 
by hollow ones. A dream caused by stimuli arising from the 
male sexual organs may cause the dreamer to find the top part 
of a clarinet in the street or the mouth-piece of a tobacco-pipe, 
or again, a piece of fur. Here the clarinet and the tobacco-pipe 
represent the approximate shape of the male organ, while the 
fur stands for the pubic hair. In the case of a sexual dream in a 
woman, the narrow space where the thighs come together may 
be represented by a narrow courtyard surrounded by houses, 
while the vagina may be symbolized by a soft, slippery and veiy 
narrow foot-path leading across the yard, along which the 
dreamer has to pass, in order, perhaps, to take a gentleman a 
letter.’ (Ibid., 34.) It is of special importance that, at the end 
of dreams with a somatic stimulus, such as these, the dream- 
imagination often throws aside its veil, as it were, by openly 
revealing the organ concerned or its function. Thus a dream 
‘with a dental stimulus’ usually ends by the dreamer picturing 
himself pulling a tooth out of his mouth. [Ibid., 35.] 

Dream-imagination may, however, not merely direct its atten- 
tion to the form of the stimulating organ; it may equally well 
symbolize the substance contained in that organ. In this way, 
a dream with an intestinal stimulus may lead the dreamer along 
muddy streets, or one with a urinary stimulus may lead him to 
a foaming stream. Or the stimulus as such, the nature of the 
excitement it produces, or the object it desires, may be sym- 
bolically represented. Or the dream-ego may enter into con- 
crete relations with the symbols of its own state; for instance, in 
the case of painful stimuli the dreamer may engage in a des- 
perate struggle with fierce dogs or savage bulls, or a woman in 
a sexual dream may find herself pursued by a naked man. 
[Ibid., 35 f.] Quite apart from the wealth of the means that it 
employs, the symbolizing activity of the imagination remains 
the central force in every dream. [Ibid., 36.] The task of 
penetrating more deeply into the nature of this imagination 
and of finding a place for it in a system of philosophical thought 
is attempted by Volkelt in the pages of his book. But, though 


it is well and feelingly written, it remains excessively hard to 
understand for anyone whose early education has not prepared 
him for a sympathetic grasp of llie conceptual constructions of 

There is no utilitarian function attached to Schemer’s sym- 
bolizing imagination. The mind plays in its sleep with the 
stimuli that impinge upon it. One might almost suspect that it 
plays with them mischievously. But I might also be asked 
whether my detailed examination of Schemer’s theory of 
dreams can serve any utilitarian purpose, since its arbitrary 
character and its disobedience to all the rules of research seem 
only too obvious. By way of rejoinder, I might register a protest 
against the arrogance which would dismiss Schemer’s theory 
unexamined. His theory is built upon the impression made by 
his dreams upon a man who considered them with the greatest 
attention and seems to have had a great personal gift for 
investigating the obscure things of the mind. Moreover it deals 
with a subject that for thousands of years has been regarded by 
mankind as enigmatic, no doubt, but also as important in itself 
and its implications — a subject to the elucidation of which exact 
science, on its own admission, has contributed little apart from 
an attempt (in direct opposition to popular feeling) to deny it 
any meaning or significance. And finally it may honestly be 
said that in attempting to explain dreams it is not easy to avoid 
being fantastic. Ganglion cells can be fantastic too. The passage 
which I quoted on p. 77 from a sober and exact investigator 
like Binz, and which describes the way in which the dawn of 
awakening steals over the mass of sleeping cells in the cerebral 
cortex, is no less fantastic — and no less improbable — ^than 
Schemer’s attempts at interpretation. I hope to be able to show 
that behind the latter there is an element of reality, though it 
has only been vaguely perceived and lacks the attribute of 
universality which should characterize a theory of dreams. 
Meanwhile the contrast between Schemer’s theory and the 
medical one will show us the extremes between which explana- 
tions of dream-life doubtfully oscillate to this very day.^ 

1 [Schemer’s theories are further discussed on pp. 224 ff. and 346.] 



When we speak of the relation of dreams to mental disorders 
we may have three things in mind: (1) aetiological and clinical 
connections, as when a dream represents a psychotic state, or 
introduces it, or is left over from it; (2) modifications to which 
dream-life is subject in cases of menLal disease; and (3) intrinsic 
connections between dreams and psychoses, analogies pointing 
to their being essentially akin. These numerous relations between 
the two groups of phenomena were a favourite topic among 
medical writers in earlier times and have become so once again 
to-day, as is shown by the bibliographies of the subject collected 
by Spitta [1882, 196 f. and 319 f.], Radestock [1879, 217], 
Maury [1878, 124 f.] and Tissie [1898, 77 f.]. Quite recently 
Sante de Sanctis has turned his attention to this subject.^ It will 
be enough for the purpose of my thesis if I do no more than 
touch upon this important question. 

As regards the clinical and aetiological connections between 
dreams and psychoses, the following observations may be given 
as samples. Hohnbaum [1830, 124], quoted by Krauss [1858, 
619], reports that a first outbreak of delusional insanity often 
originates in an anxious or terrifying dream, and that the 
dominant idea is connected with the dream. Sante de Sanctis 
brings forward similar observations in cases of paranoia and 
declares that in some of these the dream was the ‘vraie cause 
determinante de la folic’. ^ The psychosis, says de Sanctis, may 
come to life at a single blow with the appearance of the opera- 
tive dream which brings the delusional material to light; or it 
may develop slowly in a series of further dreams, which have 
still to overcome a certain amount of doubt. In one of his cases 

^ [Footnote added 1914:] Among later writers who deal with these rela- 
tions are F6r6 [1887], Ideler [1862], Las^gue [1881], Pichon [1896], 
Regis [1894], Vespa [1897], Giessler [1888, etc.], Kazowsky [1901], 
Pachantoni [1909], etc. 

* [‘The true determining cause of insanity.’] 




the significant dream was followed by mild hysterical attacks 
and later by a condition of anxious melancholia. Fere [1886] 
(quoted by Tissie, 1898 [78]) reports a dream which resulted in 
a hysterical paralysis. In these instances the dreams are repre- 
sented as the aetiology of the mental disorder; but we should 
be doing equal justice to the facts if we said that the mental 
disorder made its first appearance in dream-life, that it first 
broke through in a dream. In some further examples the patho- 
logical symptoms are contained in dream-life, or the psychosis 
is limited to dream-life. Thus Thomayer (1897) draws atten- 
tion to certain anxiety-dreams which he thinks should be re- 
garded as equivalents of epileptic fits. Allison [1868] (quoted by 
Radestock, 1879 [225]) has described a ‘nocturnal insanity’, in 
which the patient appears completely healthy during the day 
but is regularly subject at night to hallucinations, fits of frenzy, 
etc. Similar observations are reported by de Sanctis [1899, 226] 
(a dream in an alcoholic patient which was equivalent to a 
paranoia, and which represented voices accusing his wife of 
unfaithfulness) and Tissie. The latter (1898, [147 ff.]) gives 
copious recent examples in which acts of a pathological nature, 
such as conduct based on delusional premises and obsessive 
impulses, were derived from dreams. Guislain [1833] des- 
cribes a case in which sleep was replaced by an intermittent 

There can be no doubt that alongside of the psychology of 
dreams physicians will some day have to turn their attention 
to a p^chopathology of dreams. 

In cases of recovery from mental diseases it can often be 
quite clearly observed that, while functioning is normal during 
the day, dream-life is still under the influence of the psychosis. 
According to Krauss (1859, 270), Gregory first drew attention 
to this fact. Macario [1847], quoted by Tissie [1898, 89], 
describes how a manic patient, a week after his complete 
recovery was still subject in his dreams to the flight of ideas 
and the violent passions which were characteristic of his illness. 

Very little research has hitherto been carried out into the 
modifications occurring in dream-life during chronic psychoses. ^ 
On the other hand, attention was long ago directed to the 

1 [This question was later , Freud himself (19226, end of 
Section B).] ■ 


underlying kinship between dreams and mental disorders, ex- 
hibited in the wide measure of agreement between their mani- 
festations. Maury (1854, 124) tells us that Cabanis (1802) was 
the first to remark on them, and after him Lelut [1852], 
J. Moreau (1855) and, in particular, Maine de Biran [1834, 
1 1 1 ff.] the philosopher. No doubt the comparison goes back 
still earlier. Radestock (1879, 217) introduces the chapter in 
which he deals with it by a number of quotations drawing an 
analogy between dreams and madness. Kant writes somewhere 
[1764] ; ‘The madman is a waking dreamer.’ Krauss (1859, 270) 
declares that ‘insanity is a dream dreamt while the senses are 
awake’. Schopenhauer [1862, 1 , 246] calls dreams a brief mad- 
ness and madness a long dream. Hagen [1846, 812] describes 
delirium as dream-life induced not by sleep but by illness. 
Wundt [1878, 662] writes; ‘We ourselves, in fact, can experience 
in dreams almost all the phenomena to be met with in insane 

Spitta (1882, 199), in much the same way as Maury (1854), 
enumerates as follows the different points of agreement which 
constitute the basis for this comparison: ‘(1) Self-consciousness 
is suspended or at least retarded, which results in a lack of 
insight into the nature of the condition, with consequent 
inability to feel surprise and loss of moral consciousness. (2) 
Perception by the sense organs is modified: being diminished 
in dreams but as a rule greatly increased in insanity. (3) Inter- 
connection of ideas occurs exclusively according to the laws of 
association and reproduction; ideas thus fall into sequences 
automatically and there is a consequent lack of proportion in 
the relation between ideas (exaggerations and illusions). All 
this leads to (4) an alteration or in some cases a reversal of 
personality and occasionally of character traits (perverse 

Radestock (1879, 219) adds a few more features — analogies 
between the material in the two cases; ‘The majority of hallucina- 
tions and illusions occiu’ in the region of the senses of sight and 
hearing and of coenaesthesia. As in the case of dreams, the 
senses of smell and taste provide the fewest elements. — Both in 
patients suffering from fever and in dreamers memories arise 
from the remote past; both sleeping and sick men recollect 
things which waking and healthy men seem to have forgotten.’ 
The analogy between dreams and psychoses is only fully appre- 



ciated when it is seen to extend to the details of expressive 
movement and to particular characteristics of facial expression. 

‘A man tormented by physical and mental suffering obtains 
from dreams what reality denies him: health and happiness. 
So too in mental disease there are bright pictures of happiness, 
grandeur, eminence and wealth. The supposed possession of 
property and the imaginary fulfilment of wishes — the with- 
holding or destruction of which actually affords a psychological 
basis for insanity — often constitute the chief content of a 
delirium. A woman who has lost a loved child experiences the 
joys of motherhood in her delirium; a man who has lost his 
money believes himself immensely rich; a girl who has been 
deceived feels that she is tenderly loved.’ 

(This passage from Radestock is actually a summary of an 
acute observation made by Griesinger (1861, 106), who shows 
quite clearly that ideas in dreams and in psychoses have in 
common the characteristic of being fulfilments of wishes. My 
own researches have taught me that in this fact lies the key to a 
psychological theory of both dreams and psyehoses.) 

‘The chief feature of dreams and of insanity lies in their 
eccentric trains of thought and their weakness of judgement.* 
In both states [Radestock continues] we find an over-valuation 
of the subject’s own mental achievements which seems senseless 
to a sober view; the rapid sequence of ideas in dreams is 
paralleled by the flight of ideas in psychoses. In both there is a 
complete lack of sense of time. In dreams the personality may 
be split — ^when, for instance, the dreamer’s own knowledge is 
divided between two persons and when, in the dream, the 
extraneous ego corrects the actual one. This is precisely on a 
par with the splitting of the personality that is familiar to us in 
hallucinatory paranoia; the dreamer too hears his own thoughts 
pronounced by extraneous voices. Even chronic delusional ideas 
have their analogy in stereotyped recurrent pathological dreams 
{le rive obse'dant ). — It not infrequently happens that after re- 
covering from a delirium patients will say that the whole period 
of their illness seems to them like a not unpleasant dream: 
indeed they will sometimes tell us that even during the illness 
they have occasionally had a feeling that they are only caught 
up in a dream — as is often the case in dreams occurring in 

After all this, it is not surprising that Radestock sums up his 


views, and those of many others, by declaring that ‘insanity, an 
abnormal pathological phenomenon, is to be regarded as an 
intensification of the periodically recurrent normal condition 
of dreaming’. (Ibid., 228.) 

Krauss (1859, 270 f.) has sought to establish what is perhaps 
a still more intimate connection between dreams and insanity 
than can be demonstrated by an analogy between these ex- 
ternal manifestations. This connection he sees in their aetiology 
or rather in the sources of their excitation. The fundamental 
element common to the two states lies according to him, as we 
have seen [p. 36 f.], in organically determined sensations, in 
sensations derived from somatic stimuli, in the coenaesthesia 
which is based upon contributions arising from all the organs. 
(Cf. Peisse, 1857, 2, 21, quoted by Maury, 1878, 52.) 

The indisputable analogy betw,'een dreams and insanity, ex- 
tending as it does down to their characteristic details, is one of 
the most powerful props of the medical theory of dream-life, 
which regards dreaming as a useless and disturbing process and 
as the expression of a reduced activity of the mind. Nevertheless 
it is not to be expected that we shall find the ultimate explana- 
tion of dreams in the direction of mental disorders; for the un- 
satisfactory state of our knowledge of the origin of these latter 
conditions is generally recognized. It is quite likely, on the con- 
trary, that a modification of our attitude towards dreams will 
at the same time affect our views upon the internal mechanism 
of mental disorders and that we shall be working towards an 
explanation of the psychoses while we are endeavouring to 
throw some light on the mystery of dreams.^ 

^ [A discussion of the relation between dreams and psychoses will be 
found in Lecture 29 of the New Introductory Lectures (Freud, 1933a).] 


The fact that I have not extended my account of the litera- 
ture dealing with the problems of dreams to cover the period 
between the first and second editions of this book stands in 
need of a justification. It may strike the reader as an unsatis- 
factory one, but for me it was none the less decisive. The 
motives which led me to give any account at all of the way in 
which earlier writers have dealt with dreams were exhausted 
with the completion of this introductory chapter; to continue 
the task would have cost me an extraordinary effort — and the 
result would have been of very little use or instruction. For 
the intervening nine years have produced nothing new or 
valuable either in factual material or in opinions that might 
throw light on the subject. In the majority of publications that 
have appeared during the interval my work has remained un- 
mentioned and unconsidered. It has, of course, received least 
attention from those who are engaged in what is described as 
‘research’ into dreams, and who have thus provided a shining 
example of the repugnance to learning anything new which is 
characteristic of men of science. In the ironical words of Anatole 
France, ‘les savants ne sont pas curieux'. If there were such a thing 
in science as a right to retaliate, I should certainly be justified 
in my turn in disregarding the literature that has been issued 
since the publication of this book. The few notices of it that 
have appeared in scientific periodicals show so much lack of 
understanding and so much ^Understanding that my only 
reply to the critics would be to suggest their reading the book 
again — or perhaps, indeed, merely to suggest their reading it. 

A large number of dreams have been published and analysed 
in accordance with my directions in papers by physicians who 
have decided to adopt the psycho-analytic therapeutic pro- 
cedure, as well as by other authors.^ In so far as these writings 
have gone beyond a mere confirmation of my views I have in- 
cluded their findings in the course of my exposition. I have 

^ [In the 1909 and 191 1 editions only, there was a parenthesis at this 
point containing the names of Jung, Abraham, Riklin, Muthmann and 
Stekel. In 1909 only, the next sentence read : ‘But these publications 
have merely confirmed my views and not added anything to them.’] 



added a second bibliography at the end of the volume con- 
taining a list of the most important works that have appeared 
since this book was first published.^ The extensive monograph 
on dreams by Sante de Sanctis (1899), of which a German 
translation appeared soon after its issue, was published almost 
simultaneously with my Interpretation of Dreams, so that neither 
I nor the Italian author was able to comment upon each 
other’s work. I have unfortunately been unable to escape the 
conclusion that his painstaking volume is totally deficient in 
ideas — so much so, in fact, that it would not even lead one to 
suspect the existence of the problems with which I have dealt. 

Only two publications require to be mentioned which come 
near to my own treatment of the problems of dreams. Hermann , 
Swoboda (1904), a youthful philosopher, has undertaken the 
task of extending to psychical events the discovery of a bio- 
logical periodicity (in 23-day and 28-day periods) made by 
Wilhelm^liess [1906].® In the course of his highly imaginative 
work he has endeavoured to use this key for the solution, among 
other problems, of the riddle of dreams. His findings would 
seem to under-estimate the significance of dreams; the subject- 
matter of a dream, on his view, is to be explained as an assem- 
blage of all the memories which, on the night on which it is 
dreamt, complete one of the biological periods, whether for the 
first or for the nth time. A personal communication from the 
author led me at first to suppose that he himself no longer took 
this theory seriously, but it seems that this was a mistaken 
conclusion on my part.® At a later stage [see below, p. 166 ff.] 
I shall report upon some observations which I made in con- 
nection with Swoboda’s suggestion but which led me to no 
convincing conclusion. I was the more pleased when, in an 
unexpected quarter, I made the chance discovery of a view of 
dreams which coincides entirely with the core of my own theory. 
It is impossible, for chronological reasons, that the statement 
in question can have been influenced by my book. I must there- 

^ [See the Editor’s Introduction, pp. xiii and xxi.] 

® [An account of Fliess’s theories and of his relations with Swoboda is 
given in Section IV of Kris’s introduction to Freud’s correspondence 
with Fliess (Freud, 1950a).] 

® [In its present form this sentence dates from 1911. In 1909 it read: 
‘A personal communication from the author to the effect that he him- 
self no longer supports these views exempts me from giving them serious 
consideration.’ The following sentence was added in 1911.] 



fore hail it as the single discoverable instance in the literature 
of the subject of an independent thinker who is in agreement 
with the essence of my theory of dreams. The book which con- 
tains the passage upon dreaming which I have in mind appeared 
in its second edition in 1900 under the title of Phantasien sines 
Realisten by ‘Lynkeus’. [First edition, 1899.]^ 


The preceding plea of justification was written in 1909. 1 am 
bound to admit that since then the situation has changed; 
my contribution to the interpretation of dreams is no longer 
neglected by writers on the subject. The new state of affairs, 
however, has now made it quite out of the question for me to 
extend my previous account of the literature. The Interpretation 
of Dreams has raised a whole series of fresh considerations and 
problems which have been discussed in a great variety of ways. 
I cannot give an account of these works, however, before I have 
expounded those views of my own on which they are based. I 
have therefore dealt with whatever seems to me of value in the 
latest literature at its appropriate place in the course of the 
discussion which now follows. 

^ [Footnote added 1930:] Cf. my paper on Josef Popper-Lynkeus and 
the dieory of dreams (192^). [Freud wrote a further paper on the sub- 
ject (1932c). The passage referred to in the text above will be found 
quoted in full below in a footnote on p. 308 f.] 



The title that I have chosen for my work makes plain which of 
the traditional approaches to the problem of dreams I am 
inclined to follow. The aim which I have set before myself is 
to show that dreams are capable of being inteipreted; and any 
contributions I may be able to make towards the solution of the 
problems dealt with in the last chapter will only arise as by- 
products in the course of carrying out my proper task. My pre- 
sumption that dreams can be interpreted at once puts me in 
opposition to the ruling theory of dreams and in fact to every 
theory of dreams with the single exception of Schemer’s 
[p. 83 ff.]; for ‘interpreting’ a dream implies assigning a 
‘meaning’ to it — that is, replacing it by something which fits 
into the chain of our mental acts as a link having a validity and 
importance equal to the rest. As we have seen, the scientific 
theories of dreams leave no room for any problem of interpret- 
ing them, since in their view a dream is not a mental act at all, 
but a somatic process signalizing its occurrence by indications 
registered in the mental apparatus. Lay opinion has taken a 
different attitude throughout the ages. It has exercised its in- 
defeasible right to behave inconsistently; and, though admitting 
that dreams are unintelligible and absurd, it cannot bring itself 
to declare that they have no significance at all. Led by some 
obscure feeling, it seems to assume that, in spite of everything, 
every dream has a meaning, though a hidden one, that dreams 
are designed to take the place of some other process of thought, 
and that we have only to undo the substitution correctly in 
order to arrive at this hidden meaning. 

Thus the lay world has from the earliest times concerned 
itself with ‘interpreting’ dreams and in its attempts to do so it 
has made use of two essentially different methods. 

The first of these procedures considers the content of the 
dream as a whole and seeks to replace it by another content 
which is intelligible and in certain respects analogous to the 



original one. This is ‘^mbolic' dream-interpreting; and it inevit- 
ably breaks down when faced by dreams which are not merely 
unintelligible but also confused. An example of this procedure 
is to be seen in the explanation of Pharaoh’s dream propounded 
by Joseph in the Bible. The seven fat kine followed by seven 
lean kine that ate up the fat kine — all this was a symbolic 
substitute for a prophecy of seven years of famine in the land 
of Egypt which should consume all that was brought forth in 
the seven years of plenty. Most of the artificial dreams con- 
structed by imaginative writer's are designed for a symbolic 
interpretation of this sort: they reproduce the writer’s thoughts 
under a disguise which is regarded as harmonizing with the 
recognized characteristics of dreams. ^ The idea of dreams being 
chiefly concerned with the future and being able to foretell it — 
a remnant of the old prophetic significance of dreams — provides 
a reason fiir transposing the meaning of the dream, when it 
has been arrived at by symbolic interpretation, into the future 
tense. It is of course impossible to give instructions upon the 
method of arriving at a symbolic interpretation. Success must be 
a question of hitting on a clever idea, of direct intuition, and 
for that reason it was possible for dream-interpretation by 
means of symbolism to be exalted into an artistic activity 
dependent on the possession of peculiar gifts.* 

The second of the two popular methods of interpreting 
dreams is far from making any such claims. It might be des- 
cribed as the 'decoding’ method, since it treats dreams as a kind 
of cryptography in which each sign can be translated into 
another sign having a known meaning, in accordance with a 
fixed key. Suppose, for instance, that I have dreamt of a letter 

^ [Footnote added 1909:] I found by chance in Gradiva, a story written 
by Wilhelm Jensen, a number of artificial dreams which were perfectly 
correctly constructed and could be interpreted just as though they had 
not been invented but had been dreamt by real people. In reply to an 
enquiry, the author confirmed the fact that he had no knowledge of my 
theory of dreams. I have argued that the agreement between my 
researches and this writer’s creations is evidence in favour of the correct- 
ness of my analysis of dreams. (See Freud, 1907a.) 

* [Footnote added 1914:] Aristotle [De dioinatione per somnum, II {Trans., 
1935, 383)] remarked in this coimection that the best interpreter of 
dreams was the man who could best grasp similarities; for dream; 
pictures, like pictures on water, are pulled out of shape by movement, 
and the most successful interpreter is the man who can detect the truth 
from the misshapen picture. (Biichsenschutz, 1868, 65.) 

i.D. — ^rv. 



ami also of a fbneraL if I consult a ‘dream-book’, I find «bat 
Tetter’ must be translated by ‘trouble’ and ‘funeral’ by 
‘betrodial*. It then remains for me to link together the key- 
words which I have deciphered Is this v.-ay and, once more, to 
transpose the result into the futxire tense. An interesting modifi- 
cation of the process of decoding, which xo some extent corrects 
the purely mechanical character of its method of transpodug, is 
to be &und in the book written upon the interpretation of 
dreams \PneirocTitica\ by Artemidorus of Daldis.* This methcKi 
takes into account not orJy the content of the dream but also the 
character and circumstances of the dreamer; so that the same 
dream-element will have a different meaning for a rich man, 
a married man or, let us say, an orator, from what it has for a 

* {Footnote added 1914:] Artemidorus of Daidh, who was probably 
bom at the beginning of the second century has left iis the most 
complete and painstaking study of dream-interpretation as practised in 
the Graeco-Roman world. As Theodor Gotnperz (1866, 7 f.) points out, 
he insisted on the importance of basing the interpreladon of dreams on 
observation and experience, and made a rigid distinction between his 
own art and others that were illusory. The principle of his interpretative 
art, according to Gomperz, is identical tWih magic, the principle of 
association. A thing in a dream means what it recalls to the mind — to 
the dream-interpreter’s mind, it need hardly be said. .An insuperable 
source of arbitrariness and uncertainty arises from the fact that the 
dream-clement may recall carious things to the interpreter's mind and 
may recall something different to different interpreters. The technique 
which I describe in the pages that follow differs in one essential respect 
from the ancient method: it imposes the task of interpretation upon the 
dreamer himself. It is not concerned with what occurs to the interpreter 
in connection with a particular element of the dream, but with what 
occurs to the dreamer . — Recent reports, hotvever, from a missionary, 
Father Tfinkdji (1913, [516-17 and 523]), show that modem dream- 
interpreters in the East also make free use of the dreamer’s collabora- 
tion. He writes as follows of dream-inteipreters among the Arabs of 
Mesopotamia: ‘Pour interpreter exactement un songe, les oniroman- 
ciens les plus habiles s’infoiment de ceux qui les consulteut de toutes les 
circonstances qu’ils regardent necessaires pour la bonne explication. . . . 
£n un mot, nos oniromanciens ne laissent aucune circonstance leur 
echapper et ne donnent I’interpretation desirec av.vut d’avoir paiiaite- 
ment saisi et refu toutes les interrogations d^irables.’ [‘In order to give 
a precise interpretation of a drettm, the most skilful dream-diviners find 
out from those who consult them all the circumstances which they con- 
sider essential in order to arrive at a right explanadon. ... In short, 
these dream-diviners do not allow a single point to escape them and only 
give their interpretation after they have completely mastered the replies 
to all the necessary enquiries.’] Among these enquiries are habitually 


poor man, a bachelor or a merchant. The essence of the de- 
coding procedure, however, lies in the fact that the work, of 
interpretation is not brought to bear on the dream as a whole 
but on each portion of the dream’s content independendy, as 
though the dream were a geological conglomerate in which 
each fragment of rock required a separate assessment. There 
can be no question that the invention of the decoding method 
of interpretation was suggested by disconnected and confused 

It cannot be doubted for a moment that neither of the two 
popular procedures for interpreting dreams can be employed 
for a scientific treatment of the subject. The symbolic method 
is restricted in its application and incapable of being laid down 

included questions as to the dreamer’s closest family relations — his par- 
ents, wife and children — as well as such a typical formula as: ‘Habuistine 
in hac nocte copulam conjugalem ante vel post somnium?’ [‘Did you 
copulate with your wife that night before or after you had the dream?’] 
— ‘L’idee dominante dans I’interpretation des songes consiste a expliquer 
le r6ve par son opposiie.’ [‘The principal idea in interpreting dreams 
lies in explaining a dream by its opposite.’] 

1 \FootnoU added 1909:] Dr. Alfred Robitsek has pointed out to me that 
the oriental ‘dream-books’ (of which ours are wretched imitations) base 
the greater number of their interpretations of dream-elements upon 
similarity of sounds and resemblance between words. The fact that these 
connections inevitably disappear in translation accounts for the unintel- 
ligibility of the renderings in our own popular dream-books. The extra- 
ordinarily important part played by punning and verbal quibbles in the 
ancient cudlizations of the East may be studied in the writings of Hugo 
Winckler [the famous archaeologist ]. — [Added 1911:] The nicest instance 
of a dream-interpretation which has reached us from ancient times is 
based on a play upon words. It is told by Artemidorus [Book IV, Chap. 
24; Krauss’s translation, 1881, 255]: ‘I think too that .\ristander gave a 
most happy interpretation to .Mexander of Macedon when he had sur- 
rounded Tyre [Tv/joj] and was besieging it but was feeling uneasy and 
disturbed because of the length of time the siege was taking. Alexander 
dreamt he saw a satyr [crdTc/jo^] dancing on his shield. Aristander hap- 
pened to be in the neighbourhood of Tyre, in attendance on the king 
during his Syrian campaign. By dividing the word for satyr into ad and 
rvpo; he encouraged the king to press home the siege so that he became 
master of the city.’ (ad Tvpoz = Tyre is thine.) — Indeed, dreams are so 
closely related to linguistic expression that Ferenczi [1910] has truly 
remarked that every tongue has its o^vn dream-language. It is impossible 
as a rule to translate a dream into a foreign language and this is equally 
true, I fancy, of a book such as the present one. [Added 1930:] Neverthe- 
less Dr. A. A. Brill of New York, and others after him, have succeeded in 
translating TTie InterpreUttion of Dream. 


on general lines. In the case of the decoding method everything 
dqpends on the trusnvorthiness of the ‘key* — ^the dream-book, 
and of this we have no guarantee. Thus one might feel tempted 
to agree with the philosophers and the psychiatrists and, like 
them, rule out the problem of dream-interpretation as a purely 
fanciful task.^ 

But I have been taught better. I have been driven to realize 
that here once more we have one of those not infrequent cases 
in which an ancient and jealously held popular belief seems to 
be nearer the truth than the judgement of the prevalent science 
of to-day. I must affirm that dreams really have a meaning and 
that a scientific procedure for interpreting them is possible. 

My knowledge of that procedure was reached in the following 
manner. I have been engaged for many years (with a thera- 
peutic aim in view) in unravelling certain psychopathological 
structures — ^hysterical phobias, obsessional ideas, and so on. 
I have been doing so, in fact, ever since I learnt from an 
important communication by Josef Breuer that as regards these 
structures (which are looked on as pathological symptoms) un- 
ravelling them coincides wdtli removing them.* (Cf. Breuer and 
Freud, 1895.) If a pathological idea of this sort can be traced 
back to the elements in the patient’s mental life from which it 
originated, it simultaneously crumbles away and tlie patient 
is freed from it. Considering the impotence of our other thera- 
peutic efforts and the puzzling nature of these disorders, I 
felt tempted to follow the path marked out by Breuer, in spite 
of every difficulty, till a complete explanation was reached. 
I shall have on another occasion to report at length upon the 
form finally taken by this procedure and the results of my 
labours. It was in the course of these psycho-analytic studies 
that I came upon dream-interpretation. My patients were 
pledged to communicate to me every idea or thought that 
occurred to them in connection with some particular subject; 
amongst other things they told me their dreams and so taught 

1 After I had completed my manuscript I came across a work by 
Stumpf (1899) which agrees with my views in seeking to prove that 
dreams have a meaning and can be interpreted. He effects his inter- 
pretations, however, by means of a symbolism of an allegorical char- 
acter without any guarantee of the general validity of his procedure. 

• \^Atfioswng’ and ‘Losung' in the original.] 


me that a dream can be insei'ted into the psychical chain that 
has to be traced backwards in die nienion* from a padiological 
idea. It ivas then only a short step to treating tlie dream itself 
as a symptom and to applying to dreams the luediod of inter- 
pretation that had been worked out for symptoms. 

This involves some psychological preparation of the patient. 
We must aim at bringing about two changes in him: an increase 
in die attention he par's to his own psychical perceptions and 
the elimination of die ciiticism by which he normally sifts the 
thoughts that occur to him. In order that he may be able to 
concentrate his attention on his sclf-obscn'ation it is an advan- 
tage for him to lie in a restful attitude and shut his eyes.^ It is 
necessary to insist e.Nplicitly on his renouncing all criticism of 
the thoughts that he perceives. A\'e therefore tell him diat die 
success of the psi'clio-ane.h sis depends on liis noticing and re- 
porting whatever comes into his head and not being misled, 
for instance, into suppressing an idea because it strikes liim as 
unimportant or irrelevant or because it seems to him meaning- 
less. He must adopt a completely impartial altitude to what 
occurs to liim, since it is precisely his critical attitude which is 
responsible for his being unable, in the ordinaiy' course of 
things, to achieve the desired unnivelling of his dream or 
obsessional idea or whatever it may be. 

I have noticed in my p.sycho-an;ilytical ivork tliat the whole 
frame of mind of a man who is reflecting is totally different from 
diat of a man who is observing Iiis oivn psychical processes. In 
reflection there is one more psychical activity at ivork than in 
die most attentive self-obscn ation, and this is shown amongst 
other things by the tense looks and wrinkled forehead of a 
pei'son punning his reflections as compared widi the restful ex- 
pression of a self-observer. In both cases attention ® must be 
concentrated, but die man who is reflecting is also exercising 
his critical faculty; diis leads him to reject some of die ide;is diat 
occur to him after perceiving diem, to cut short odien without 
following the trains of thought whicli diey would open up to 

^ [The stress upon the adiisability of shutting the eyes (a remnant of 
the old hypnotic procedure) was very soon dropped. See, for instance, 
the account of psycho-analytic technique in Freud (1904<i), where it is 
specifically mentioned that tlie analyst does not ask the patient to shut 
his eyes.] 

* [The function of attention is discussed below (p. 593).] 


him, and to behave in such a way towards still others that they 
never become conscious at all and arc accordingly suppressed 
before being perceived. The self-observer on the other hand 
need only take the trouble to suppress his critical faculty. If he 
succeeds in doing that, innumerable ideas come into his con- 
sciousness of which he could otherwise never have got hold. 
The material which is in this way freshly obtained for his self- 
perception makes it possible to inteipret both his pathological 
ideas and his dream-structures. What is in question, evidently, 
is the establishment of a psychical state which, in its distribu- 
tion of psychical energy (that is, of mobile attention), bears 
some analogy to the state before falling tisleep — and no doubt 
also to hypnosis. As we fall asleep, ‘involuntary ideas’ emerge, 
owing to the relaxation of a certain deliberate (and no doubt 
also critical) activity which we allow to influence the course of 
our ideas while we are awake. (We usually attribute this relaxa- 
tion to ‘fatigue’.) As the involuntary ideas emerge they change 
into visual and acoustic images. (Gf. the remarks by Schleier- 
macher and others quoted above on pp. 49 f. [and 71 f.].)^ In 
the state used ibr the analysis of dreams and pathological ideas, 
the patient purposely and deliberately abandons this activity 
and employs the psychical energy thus saved (or a portion of it) 
in attentively following the involuntary thoughts which now 
emerge, and which — and here the situation differs from that 
of falling asleep — retain the character of ideas. In this way the 
'involuntary ideas are transformed into ‘voluntary’ ones. 

The adoption^ of the required attitude of mind towards 
ideas that seem to emerge ‘of their own free will’ and the 
abandonment of the critical function that is normally in opera- 
tion against them seem to be hard ol' achievement for some 
people. The ‘involuntary thoughts’ are liable to release a most 
violent resistance, which seeks to prevent their emergence. If 
we may trust that great poet and philosopher Friedrich Schiller, 
however, poetic creation must demand an exactly similar atti- 
tude. In a passage in his correspondence with Komer — ^we 

‘ [Footnote added 1919;] Silberer (1909, 1910 and 1912) has made 
important contributions to dream-interpretation by directly observii^ 
tliis transformation of ideas into visual images. [See below, pp. 344 f. and 
503 f.] 

* filiis paragraph was added in 1909, and the first sentence of the 
next paragraph modified accordingly.] 


have to thank Otto Rank for unearthing it — Schiller (writing 
on December 1, 1 788) replies to his friend’s complaint of insuffi- 
cient productivity: ‘The ground for your complaint seems to 
me to lie in the constraint imposed by your reason upon your 
imagination. I will make my idea more concrete by a simile. 
It seems a bad thing and detrimental to the creative work 
of the mind if Reason makes too close an examination of 
the ideas as they come pouring in — at the very gateway, as 
it were. Looked at in isolation, a thought may seem very trivial 
or very fantastic; but it may be made important by another 
thought that comes after it, and, in conjunction with other 
thoughts that may seem equally absurd, it may turn out to 
form a most effective link. Reason cannot form any opinion 
upon all this unless it retains the thought long enough to look 
at it in connection with the others. On the other hand, where 
there is a creative mind. Reason — so it seems to me — relaxes its 
watch upon the gates, and the ideas rush in pell-mell, and only 
then does it look them through and examine them in a mass. — 
You critics, or whatever else you may call yourselves, are 
ashamed or frightened of the momentary and transient ex- 
travagances which are to be found in all truly creative minds 
and whose longer or shorter duration distinguishes the thinking 
artist from the dreamer. You complain of your unfruitfulness 
because you reject too soon and discriminate too severely.' 

Nevertheless what Schiller describes as a relaxation of the 
watch upon the gates of Reason, the adoption of an attitude 
of uncritical self-obseivation, is by no means difficult. Most 
of my patients achieve it after their first instructions. I myself 
can do so very completely, by the help of writing down my 
ideas as they occur to me. The amount of psychical energy by 
which it is possible to reduce critical activity and increase the 
intensity of self-obscia'^ation varies considerably according to 
the subject on which one is trying to fix one’s attention. 

Our first step in the employment of this procedure teaches 
us that what we must take as the object of our attention is not 
the dream as a whole but the separate portions of its content. 
If I say to a patient who is still a novice: ‘What occurs to you in 
connection with this dream?’, as a rule his mental horizon 
becomes a blank. If, however, I put the dream before him cut 
up into pieces, he will give me a series of associations to each 
piece, which might be described as the ‘background thoughts’ 


of that particular part of the dream. Thus the method of dream- 
intei^pretation which I practise already differs in this first im- 
portant respect from the popular, historic and legendary method 
of interpretation by means of symbolism and approximates to 
the second or ‘decoding’ method. Like the latter, it employs 
interpretation en detail and not en masse; like the latter, it regards 
dreams from the very first as being of a composite character, 
as being conglomerates of psychical formations. [Cf. pp. 418 f. 
and 449.] ^ 

In the course of my psycho-analyses of neurotics I must 
already have analysed over a thousand dreams; but I do not 
propose to make use of this material in my present introduc- 
tion to the technique and theory of dream-interpretation. 
Apart from the fact that such a course would be open to the 
objection that these are the dreams of neuropaths, from which 
no valid inferences could be made as to the dreams of normal 
people, there is quite another reason which forces this decision 
upon me. The subject to which these dreams of my patients 
lead up is always, of course, the case history which underlies 
their neurosis. Each dream would therefore necessitate a lengthy 
introduction and an investigation of the nature and aetiological 
determinants of the psychoneuroses. But these questions are 
in themselves novelties and highly bewildering and would dis- 
tract attention from the problem of dreams. On the contrary, 
it is my intention to make use of my present elucidation of 
dreams as a preliminary step towards solving the more difficult 
problems of the psychology of the neuroses.* If, however, I 
forego my principal material, the dreams of my neurotic 
patients, I must not be too particular about what is left to me. 
All that remains are such dreams as have been reported to me 

1 [The technique of dream-interpretation is further discussed below 
(p. 522 IT.). See also the first two sections of Freud (1923c). The 
quite other question of the part played by dream-interpretation in the 
technique of therapeutic psycho-analysis is considered in Freud (1911c).] 

• [At the beginning of Section E of Chapter VII, Freud reflects upon 
the difficulties imposed upon his exposition of the subject by this pro- 
gramme, which is already laid down in his preface to the first edition 
(p. xxiii). Ashepointsoutonp. 146 and again on p. 151 n., he is often led 
into disregarding it. In spite of his declared intention, he makes use of 
many of his patients’ dreams, and more than once (e.g. on p. 149 f.) enters 
into a discussion of the mechanism of neurotic symptoms.] 


from time to time by normal persons of my acquaintance, and 
such others as have been quoted as instances in the literature 
dealing with dream-life. Unluckily, however, none of these 
dreams are accompanied by the analysis without which I can- 
not discover a dream’s meaning. My procedure is not so con- 
venient as the popular decoding method which translates any 
given piece of a dream’s content by a fixed key. I, on the 
contrary, am prepared to find that the same piece of content 
may conceal a different meaning when it occurs in various 
people or in various contexts. Thus it comes about that I am 
led to my own dreams, which offer a copious and convenient 
material, derived from an approximately normal person and 
relating to multifarious occasions of daily life. No doubt I shall 
be met by doubts of the trustworthiness of ‘self-analyses’ of this 
kind; and I shall be told that they leave the door open to 
arbitrary conclusions. In my judgement the situation is in fact 
more favourable in the case of j«^-observation than in that of 
other people; at all events we may make the experiment and 
see how far self-analysis takes us with the interpretation of 
dreams. But I have other difficulties to overcome, which lie 
within myself. There is some natural hesitation about revealing 
so many intimate facts about one’s mental life; nor can there 
be any guarantee against misinterpretation by strangers. But 
it must be possible to overcome such hesitations. ‘Tout psycho- 
logiste’, writes Delbceuf [1885], ‘est oblige de faire I’aveu meme 
de ses faiblesses s’il croit par la Jeter du jour sur quelque 
problfeme obscur.’^ And it is safe to assume that my readers too 
will very soon find their initial interest in the indiscretions which 
I am bound to make replaced by an absorbing immersion in the 
psychological problems upon which they throw light.® 

Accordingly I shall proceed to choose out one of my own 
dreams and demonstrate upon it my method of interpretation. 
In the case of every such dream some remarks by way of 
preamble will be necessary. — ^And now I must ask the reader 

* [‘Every psychologist is under an obligation to confess even his own 
weaknesses, if he thinks that it may throw light upon some obscure 

® I am obliged to add, however, by way of qualification of what I have 
said above, that in scarcely any instance have I brought forward the 
complete interpretation of one of my own dreams, as it is known to me. I 
have probably been wise in not putting too much faith in my readers’ 
discretion^ ■ i ' 



to make my interests his own for quite a while, and to plunge, 
along with me, into the minutest details of my life; for a trans- 
ference of this kind is peremptorily demanded by our interest 
in the hidden meaning of dreams. 


During the summer of 1 895 1 had been giving psycho-analytic 
treatment to a young lady who was on very friendly terms with 
me and my family. It will be readily understood that a mixed 
relationship such as this may be a source of many disturbed 
feelings in a physician and particularly in a psychotherapist. 
While the physician’s personal interest is greater, his authority 
is less; any failure would bring a threat to the old-established 
friendship with the patient’s family. This treatment had ended 
in a partial success; the patient was relieved of her hysterical 
anxiety but did not lose all her somatic symptoms. At that time 
I was not yet quite clear in my mind as to the criteria indicating 
that a hysterical case history was finally closed, and I proposed 
a solution to the patient which she seemed unwilling to accept. 
While we were thus at variance, we had broken off the treat- 
ment for the summer vacation. — One day I had a visit from a 
junior colleague, one of my oldest friends, who had been staying 
with my patient, Irma, and her family at their country resort. 
I asked him how he had found her and he answered: ‘She’s 
better, but not quite well.’ I was conscious that my friend Otto’s 
words, or the tone in which he spoke them, annoyed me. I 
fancied I detected a reproof in them, such as to the eflFect that 
I had promised the patient too much; and, whether rightly or 
wrongly, I attributed the supposed fact of Otto’s siding against 
me to the influence of my patient’s relatives, who, as it seemed 
to me, had never looked with favour on the treatment. How- 
ever, my disagreeable impression was not clear to me and I gave 
no outward sign of it. The same evening I wrote out Irma’s case 
history, with the idea of giving it to Dr. M. (a common friend 
who was at that time the leading figure in our circle) in order 
to justify myself. That night (or more probably the next moni- 
ing) I had the following dream, which I noted down immedi- 
ately after waking.^ 

* [Footnote added 1914:] Tliis is the ,5rst dream which I submitted to a 
detailed interpretation. [Freud describes some first groping attempts at 
the analysis of his own dreams in Studies on Hysteria (Breuer and Freud, 



Dream of July 23Rr)-24TH, 1895 

A large hall — numerous guests, whom we were receiving. — Among 
them was Irma. I at once took her on one side, as though to answer her 
letter and to reproach her for not having accepted iny 'solution' yet. I said 
to her: ‘If you still get pains, it's really only your fault.' She replied: ‘If 
you only knew what pains I've got now in my throat and stomach and 
abdomen — it's choking me' — I was alarmed and looked at her. She 
looked pale and puffy. I thought to myself that after all I must be missing 
some organic trouble. I took her to the window and looked down her 
throat, and she showed signs of recalcitrance, like women with artificial 
dentures. I thought to myself that there was really no need for her to do 
that. — She then opened her mouth properly and on the right I found a 
big white^ patch; at another place I saw extensive whitish grey scabs upon 
some remarkable curly structures which were evidently modelled on the 
turbinal bones of the nose. — I at once called in Dr. M., and he repeated 
the examination and confirmed it. . . . Dr. M. looked quite different 
from usual; he was very pale, he walked with a limp and his chin was 
clean-shaven. . . . My friend Otto was now standing beside her as well, 
and my friend Leopold was percussing her through her bodice and saying: 
‘She has a dull area low down on the left.' He also indicated that a portion 
of the skin on the left shoulder was infiltrated. (/ noticed this, just as he 
did, in spite of her dress.) . . . M. said: ‘ There's no doubt it's an infec- 
tion, but no matter; dysentery will supervene and the toxin will be elimin- 
ated.’ . , . IVe were directly aware, too, of the origin of the irfection. 
Not long before, when she was feeling unwell, my friend Otto had given 
her an injection of a preparation of propyl, propyls . . . propionic acid 
. . . trimethylamin {and I saw before me the formula for this printed in 
heavy type). . . . Injections of that sort ought not to be made so thought- 
lessly. . , . And probably the syringe had not been clean. 

This dream has one advantage over many others. It was im- 
mediately clear what events of the previous day provided its 
starting-point. My preamble makes that plain. The news which 
Otto had given me of Irma’s condition and the case history 

1895). They will be found mentioned in the course of the long footnote 
attached to the entry of May 15 in the Case History of Frau Emmy 
von N. This passage is quoted in full in the Editor’s Introduction 
(p. xiv f.).] 

^ [The word ‘white’ is omitted, no doubt accidentally, in the 1942 
edition only.] 


which I had been engaged in writing till far into the night con- 
tinued to occupy my mental activity even after I was asleep. 
Nevertheless, no one who had only read the preamble and the 
content of the dream itself could have the slightest notion of 
what the dream meant. I myself had no notion. I was astonished 
at the symptoms of which Irma complained to me in the dream, 
since they were not the same as those for which I had treated 
her. I smiled at the senseless idea of an injection of propionic 
acid and at Dr. M.’s consoling reflections. Towards its end the 
dream seemed to me to be more obscure and compressed than 
it was at the beginning. In order to discover the meaning of all 
this it was necessary to undertake a detailed analysis. 


The hall — numerous guests, whom we were receiving. We were 
spending that summer at Bellevue, a house standing by itself 
on one of the hills adjoining the Kahlenberg.^ The house had 
formerly been designed as a place of entertainment and its 
reception-rooms were in consequence unusually lofty and hall- 
like. It was at Bellevue that I had the dream, a few days before 
my wife’s birthday. On the previous day my wife had told me 
that she expected that a number of friends, including Irma, 
would be coming out to visit us on her birthday. M/ dream 
was thus anticipating this occasion: it was my wife’s birthday 
and a number of guests, including Irma, were being received 
by us in the large hall at Bellevue. 

/ reproached Irma for not having accepted my solution; I said: Tfyou 
still get pains, it’s your own fault.’ I might have said this to her in 
waking life, and I may actually have done so. It was my view 
at that time (though I have since recognized it as a wrong one) 
that my task was fulfilled when I had informed a patient of the 
hidden meaning of his symptoms: I considered that I was not 
responsible for whether he accepted the solution or not — though 
this was what success depended on. I owe it to this mistake, 
which I have now fortunately corrected, that my life was made 
easier at a time when, in spite of all my inevitable ignorance, I 
was expected to produce therapeutic successes. — I noticed, how- 
ever, that the words which I spoke to Irma in the dream showed 
that I was specially anxious not to be responsible for the pains 

1 [A hill which is a favourite resort in the immediate neighbourhood 
of Vienna.] 


which she still had. If they were her fault they could not be 
mine. Could it be that the purpose of the dream lay in this 

Irma’s complaint: pains in her throat and abdomen and stomach; it 
was choking her. Pains in the stomach were among my patient’s 
symptoms but were not very prominent; she complained more 
of feelings of nausea and disgust. Pains in the throat and abdo- 
men and constriction of the throat played scarcely any part in 
her illness. I wondered why I decided upon this choice of symp- 
toms in the dream but could not think of an explanation at the 

She looked pale and pufy. My patient always had a rosy com- 
plexion. I began to suspect that someone else was being sub- 
stituted for her. 

I was alarmed at the idea that I had missed an organic illness. This, 
as may well be believed, is a perpetual source of anxiety to a 
specialist whose practice is almost limited to neurotic patients 
and who is in the habit of attributing to hysteria a great number 
of symptoms which other physicians treat as organic. On the 
other hand, a faint doubt crept into my mind — from where, I 
could not tell — that my alarm was not entirely genuine. If 
Irma’s pains had an organic basis, once again I could not be 
held responsible for curing them; my treatment only set out to 
get rid of hysterical pains. It occurred to me, in fact, that I was 
actually wishing that there had been a wrong diagnosis; for, if so, 
the blame for my lack of success would also have been got rid of. 

I took her to the window to look down her throat. She showed some 
recalcitrance, like women with false teeth. I thought to myself that really 
there was no need for her to do that. I had never had any occasion 
to examine Irma’s oral cavity. What happened in the dream 
reminded me of an examination I had carried out some time 
before of a governess: at a first glance she had seemed a picture 
of youthful beauty, but when it came to opening her mouth she 
had taken measures to conceal her plates. This led to recollec- 
tions of other medical examinations and of little secrets revealed 
in the course of them — to the satisfaction of neither party. 
‘There was really no need for her to do that’ was no doubt intended 
in the first place as a compliment to Irma; but I suspected that 
it had another meaning besides. (If one carries out an analysis 
attentively, one gets a feeling of whether or not one has ex- 
hausted all the background Noughts that are to be expected.) 


The way in which Irma stood by the window suddenly re- 
minded me of another experience. Irma had an intimate woman 
friend of whom I had a very high opinion. When I visited this 
lady one evening I had found her by a window in the situation 
reproduced in the dream, and her physician, the same Dr. M., 
had pronounced that she had a diphtheritic membrane. The 
figure of Dr. M. and the membrane reappear later in the dream. 
It now occurred to me that for the last few months I had had 
every reason to suppose that this other lady was also a hysteric. 
Indeed, Irma herself had betrayed the fact to me. What did I 
know of her condition? One thing precisely: that, like my Irma 
of the dream, she suffered from hysterical choking. So in the 
dream I had replaced my patient by her friend. I now recol- 
lected that I had often played with the idea that she too might 
ask me to relieve her of her symptoms. I myself, however, had 
thought this unlikely, since she was of a very reserved nature. 
She was recalcitrant, as was shown in the dream. Another reason 
was that there was no need for her to do it: she had so far shown 
herself strong enough to master her condition without outside 
help. There still remained a few features that I could not attach 
either to Irma or to her friend: pale; puffy; false teeth. The false 
teeth cook me to the governess whom I have already men- 
tioned; I now felt inclined to be satisfied with bad teeth. I then 
thought of someone else to whom these features might be allud- 
ing. She again was not one of my patients, nor should I have 
liked to have her as a patient, since I had noticed that she was 
bashful in my presence and I could not think she would make 
an amenable patient. She was usually pale, and once, while she 
had been in specially good health, she had looked puffy. ^ Thus 
I had been comparing my patient Irma with two other people 
who would also have been recalcitrant to treatment. What could 
the reason have been for my having exchanged her in the dream 
for her friend? Perhaps it was that I should have liked to ex- 
change her: either I felt more sympathetic towards her friend 

^ The still unexplained complaint about pains in the abdomen could also 
be traced back to this third figure. The person in question was, of course, 
my own wife; the pains in the abdomen reminded me of one of the 
occasions on which I had noticed her bashfulness. I was forced to admit 
to myself that I was not treating either Irma or my wife very kindly in 
this dream; but it should be observed by way of excuse that I was 
measuring them both by the standard of the good and amenable 


or had Aiigher opinion of her intelligence. For Irma seemed to 
me foolish because she had not accepted my solution. Her friend 
would have been wiser, that is to say she would have yielded 
sooner. She would then have opened her mouth properly, and have 
told me more than Irma.’^ 

What I saw in her throat: a white patch and turbinal bones with 
scabs on them. The white patch reminded me of diphtheritis and 
so of Irma’s friend, but also of a serious illness of my eldest 
daughter’s almost two years earlier and of the fright I had had 
in those anxious days. The scabs on the turbinal bones recalled 
a worry about my own state of health. I was making frequent 
use of cocaine at that time to reduce some troublesome nasal 
swellings, and I had heard a few days earlier that one of my 
women patients who had followed my example had developed 
an extensive necrosis of the nasal mucous membrane. I had been 
the first to recommend the use of cocaine, in 1885,“ and this 
recommendation had brought serious reproaches down on me. 
The misuse of that drug had hastened the death of a dear friend 
of mine. This had been before 1895 [the date of the dream], 

I at once called in Dr. M., and he repeated the examination. This 
simply corresponded to the position occupied by M. in our 
circle. But the ‘at once’ was sufficiently striking to require a 
special explanation.® It reminded me of a tragic event in my 
practice. I had on one occasion produced a severe toxic state in 
a woman patient by repeatedly prescribing what was at that 
time regarded as a harmless remedy (sulphonal), and had hur- 
riedly turned for assistance and support to my experienced senior 
colleague. There was a subsidiary detail which confirmed die 
idea that I had this incident in mind. My patient — who suc- 
cumbed to the poison — ^had the same name as my eldest daughter. 

I had a feeling that the interpretation of this part of the dream 
was not carried far enough to make it possible to follow the whole of its 
concealed meaning. If I had pureued my comparison between the three 
women, it would have taken me far afield. — ^There is at least one spot 
in every dream at which it is unpltimbable — a navel, as it were, that 
is its point of contact with the unknown. [Cf. p. 525.] 

® [This is a misprint (which occurs in every German edition) for 
‘1884’, the date of Freud’s first paper on cocaine. A full account of 
Freud’s work in connection with cocaine will be found in Chapter VI of 
the first volume of Ernest Jones’s life of Freud. From this it appears that 
the ‘dear friend’ was Fleischl von Marxow (see p. 482 n.). Further in- 
direct allusions to this episode found on pp. 170 f., 206, 216 f. and 
484.] • [See below, p, 513.] 


It had never occurred to me before, but it struck me now almost 
like an act of retribution on the part of destiny. It was as though 
the replacement of one person by another was to be continued 
in another sense: this Mathilde for that Mathilde, an eye for an 
eye and a tooth for a tooth. It seemed as if I had been collecting 
all the occasions which I could bring up against myself as evi- 
dence of lack of medical conscientiousness. 

Dr. M. was pale, had a clean-shaven chin and walked with a limp. 
This was true to the extent that his unhealthy appearance often 
caused his friends anxiety. The two other features could only 
apply to someone else. I thought of my elder brother, who lives 
abroad, who is clean-shaven and whom, if I remembered right, 
the M. of the dream closely resembled. We had had news a few 
days earlier that he was walking with a limp owing to an 
arthritic affection of his hip. There must, I reflected, have been 
some reason for my fusing into one the two figures in the dream. 
I then remembered that I had a similar reason for being in an 
Ul-humour with each of them: they had both rejected a certain 
suggestion I had recently laid before them. 

My friend Otto was now standing beside the patient and my friend 
Leopold was examining her and indicated that there was a dull area low 
down on the left. My friend Leopold was also a physician and a 
relative of Otto’s. Since they both specialized in the same branch 
of medicine, it was their fate to be in competition with each 
other, and comparisons were constantly being drawn between 
them. Both of them acted as my assistants for years while I was 
still in charge of the neurological out-patients’ department of a 
children’s hospiteil.^ Scenes such as the one represented in the 
dream used often to occur there. While I was discussing the 
diagnosis of a case with Otto, Leopold would be examining the 
child once more and would make an unexpected contribution 
to our decision. The difference between their characters was 
like that between the bailiff Brasig and his friend KarP: one 
was distinguished for his quickness, while the other was slow 
but sure. If in the dream I was contrasting Otto with the pru- 
dent Leopold, I was evidently doing so to the advantage of the 

^ [For details of this hospital see Section II of Kris’s introduction to 
the Fliess correspondence (Freud, 1950o).] 

* [The two chief figures in the once popular novel, Ut mine Stromtid, 
written in Mecklenburg dialect, by Fritz Reuter (1862-4). There is an 
English translation, An Old Story of my Farming Days (London, 1878).] 


latter. The comparison was similar to the one between my dis- 
obedient patient Irma and the friend whom I regarded as wiser 
than she was. I now perceived another of the lines along wliich 
the chain of thought in the dream branched off: from the sick 
child to the children’s hospital. — The dull area low down on the 
left seemed to me to agree in every detail with one particular 
case in which Leopold had struck me by his thoroughness. I 
also had a vague notion of something in the nature of a meta- 
static affection; but this may also have been a reference to the 
patient whom I should have liked to have in the place of Irma. 
So far as I had been able to judge, she had produced an 
imitation of a tuberculosis. 

A portion of the skin on the left shoulder was infiltrated. I saw at 
once that this was the rheumatism in my own shoulder, which 
I invariably notice if I sit up late into the night. Moreover the 
wording in the dream was most ambiguous: T noticed this, just 
as he did. . . .’ I noticed it in my own body, that is. I was struck, 
too, by the unusual phrasing: ‘a portion of the skin was infil- 
trated’ . We are in the habit of speaking of ‘a left upper posterior 
infiltration’, and this would refer to the lung and so once more 
to tuberculosis. 

In spite of her dress. This was in any case only an interpolation. 
We naturally used to examine tlie children in the hospital un- 
dressed: and this would be a contrast to the manner in which 
adult female patients have to be examined. I remembered that 
it was smd of a celebrated clinician that he never made a physical 
examination of his patients except through their clothes. Fur- 
ther than this I could not see. Frankly, I had no desire to pene- 
trate more deeply at this point. 

Dr. M. said: ‘It’s an infection, but no matter. Dysentery will super- 
vene and the toxin will be eliminated.’ At first this struck me as 
ridiculous. But nevertheless, like all the rest, it had to be eare- 
fully analysed. When I came to look at it more closely it seemed 
to have some sort of meaning all the same. What I discovered 
in the patient was a local diphtheritis. I remembered from the 
time of my daughter’s illness a discussion on diphtheritis and 
diphtheria, the latter being the general infection that arises 
from the local diphtheritis. Leopold indicated the presence 
of a general infection of this kind from the existence of a 
dull area, which might thus be regarded as a metastatic 
focus. I seemed to think, it is true, that metastases like this do 


not in fact occur with diphtheria: it made me think rather of 

jVo matter. This was intended as a consolation. It seemed to 
fit into the context as follows. The content of the preceding part 
of the dream had been that my patient’s pains were due to a 
severe organic affection. I had a feeling that I was only trying 
in that way to shift the blame from myself. Psychological treat- 
ment could not be held responsible for the persistence of diph- 
theritic pains. Nevertheless I had a sense of awkwardness at 
having invented such a severe illness for Irma simply in order 
to clear myself. It looked so cruel. Thus I was in need of an 
assurance that all would be well in the end, and it seemed to me 
that to have put the consolation into the mouth precisely of 
Dr. M. had not been a bad choice. But here I was taking up a 
superior attitude towards the dream, and this itself required 

And why was the consolation so nonsensical? 

Dysentery. There seemed to be some remote theoretical notion 
that morbid matter can be eliminated through the bowels. 
Could it be that I was trying to make fun of Dr. M.’s fertility 
in producing far-fetched explanations and making unexpected 
pathological connections? Something else now occurred to me 
in relation to dysentery. A few’ months earlier I had taken on 
the case of a young man with remarkable difficulties associated 
with defaecating, who had been treated by other physicians 
as a case of ‘anaemia accompanied by malnutrition’. I had 
recognized it as a hysteria, but had been unwilling to try him 
with my psychotherapeutic treatment and had sent him on a 
sea voyage. Some days before, I had had a despairing letter 
from him from Eg)'pt, saying that he had had a fresh attack 
there which a doctor had declared was dysentery. I suspected 
that tlie diagnosis was an error on the part of an ignorant prac- 
titioner who had allowed himself to be taken in by the hysteria. 
But I could not help reproaching myself for having put my 
patient in a situation in which he might have contracted some 
organic trouble on top of his hysterical intestinal disorder. 
Moreover ‘dysentery’ sounds not unlike ‘diphtheria’ — ^a word 
of ill omen which did not occur in the dream. ^ 

Yes, I thought to myself, I must have been making fun of 

* {The German words 'DfsaUeris' and are more alike than 

die English ones.] 



Dr. M. with the consoling prognosis ‘Dysentery will supervene, 
etc.’: for it came back to me that, years before, he himself had 
told an amusing story of a similar kind about another doctor. 
Dr. M. had been called in by him for consultation over a patient 
who was seriously ill, and had felt obliged to point out, in view 
of the very optimistic view taken by his colleague, that he had 
found albumen in the patient’s urine. The other, however, was 
not in the least put out: ‘JVo mattef, he had said, ‘the albumen 
will soon be eliminated!’ — I could no longer feel any doubt, 
therefore, that this part of the dream was expressing derision at 
physicians who are ignorant of hysteria. And, as though to con- 
firm this, a further idea crossed my mind: ‘Does Dr. M. realize 
that the symptoms in his patient (Irma’s friend) which give 
grounds for fearing tuberculosis also have a hysterical basis? Has 
he spotted this hysteria? or has he been taken in by it?’ 

But what could be my motive for treating this friend of mine 
so badly? That was a very simple matter. Dr. M. was just as 
little in agreement with my ‘solution’ as Irma herself. So I had 
already revenged myself in this dream on two people: on Irma 
with the words ‘If you still get pains, it’s your own fault’, and 
on Dr. M. by the wording of the nonsensical consolation that I 
put into his mouth. 

We were directly aware of the origin of the infection. This direct 
knowledge in the dream was remarkable. Only just before we 
had had no knowledge of it, for the infection was only revealed 
by Leopold. 

When she was feeling unwell, my friend Otto had given her an injec- 
tion. Otto had in fact told me that during his short stay with 
Irma’s family he had been called in to a neighbouring hotel to 
give an injection to someone who had suddenly felt unwell. 
These injections reminded me once more of my unfortunate 
friend who had poisoned himself with cocaine [see p. Ill «.]. 
I had advised him to use the drug internally [i.e. orally] only, 
while morphia was being withdrawn; but he had at once given 
himself cocaine injections. 

A preparation of propyl . . . propyls . . . propionic acid. How could 
I have come to think of this? During the previous evening, 
before I wrote out the case history and had the dream, my wife 
had opened a bottle of liqueur, on w'hich the word ‘Ananas’^ 

^ I must add that the sound of the word ‘Ananas’ bears a remarkable 
resemblance to that of my patient Irma’s family name. 


appeared and which was a gift from our friend Otto: for he has 
a habit of making presents on every possible occasion. It was to 
be hoped, I thought to myself, that some day he would find a 
wife to cure him of the habit. ^ This liqueur gave off such a 
strong smell of fusel oil that I refused to touch it. My wife sug- 
gested our giving the bottle to the servants, but I — ^with even 
greater prudence — vetoed the suggestion, adding in a philan- 
thropic spirit that there was no need for them to be poisoned 
either. The smell of fusel oil (amyl . . .) evidently stirred up in 
my mind a recollection of the whole series — propyl, methyl, 
and so on — and this accounted for the propyl preparation in 
the dream. It is true that I earned out a substitution in the 
process; I dreamt of propyl after having smelt amyl. But sub- 
stitutions of this kind are perhaps legitimate in organic chemistry. 

Trimethylamin. I saw the chemical formula of this substance 
in my dream, which bears witness to a great effort on the part 
of my memory. Moreover the formula was printed in heavy 
type, as though there had been a desire to lay emphasis on some 
part of the context as being of quite special importance. What 
was it, then, to which my attention was to be directed in this 
way by trimethylamin? It was to a conversation with another 
friend who had for many years been familiar with all my writ- 
ings during the period of their gestation, just as I had been with 
his.* He had at that time confided some ideas to me on the sub- 
ject of the chemistry of the sexual processes, and had mentioned 
among other things that he believed that one of the products of 
sexual metabolism was trimethylamin. Thus this substance led 
me to sexuality, the factor to which I attributed the greatest 
importance in the origin of the neiv'ous disorders which it was 
my aim to cure. My patient Irma was a young widow; if I 
wanted to find an excuse for the failure of my treatment in her 
case, what I could best appeal to would no doubt be this fact 

^ [Footnote added 1909, but omitted again from 1925 onwards;] In this 
respect the dream did not turn out to be prophetic. But in another 
respect it was. For my patient’s ‘unsolved’ gastric pains, for which I was 
so anxious not to be blamed, turned out to be the forerunners of a serious 
disorder caused by gall-stones. 

“ [This was Wilhelm Fliess, the Berlin biologist and nose and throat 
specialist, who exercised a great influence on Freud during the years 
immediately preceding the publication of this book, and who figures 
frequently, though as a rule anonymously, in its pages. See Freud 


of her widowhood, which her friends would be so glad to see 
changed. And how strangely, I thought to myself, a dream like 
this is put together! The other woman, whom I had as a patient 
in the dream instead of Irma, was also a young widow. 

I began to guess why the formula for trimethylamin had been 
so prominent in the dream. So many important subjects con- 
verged upon that one word. Trimethylamin was an allusion not 
only to the immensely powerful factor of sexuality, but also to 
a person whose agreement I recalled with satisfaction whenever 
I felt isolated in my opinions. Surely this friend who played so 
large a part in my life must appear again elsewhere in these 
trains of thought. Yes. For he had a special knowledge of the 
consequences of affections of the nose and its accessory cavities; 
and he had drawn scientific attention to some very remarkable 
connections between the turbinal bones and the female organs 
of sex. (Gf. the three curly structures in Irma’s throat.) I had 
had Irma examined by him to see whether her gastric pains 
might be of nasal origin. But he suffered himself from suppura- 
tive rhinitis, which caused me anxiety; and no doubt there was 
an allusion to this in the pyaemia which vaguely came into my 
mind in connection with the metastases in the dream. ^ 

Injections of that sort ought not to be made so thoughtlessly. Here an 
accusation of thoughtlessness was being made directly against 
my friend Otto. I seemed to remember thinking something of 
the same kind that afternoon when his words and looks had 
appeared to show that he was siding against me. It had been 
some such notion as: ‘How easily his thoughts are influenced! 
How thoughtlessly he jumps to conclusions!’ — Apart from this, 
this sentence in the dream reminded me once more of my dead 
friend who had so hastily resorted to cocaine injections. As I 
have said, I had never contemplated the drug being given by 
injection. I noticed too that in accusing Otto of thoughtlessness 
in handling chemical substances I was once more touching upon 
the story of the unfortunate Mathilde, which gave grounds for 
the same accusation against myself. Here I was evidently col- 
lecting instances of my conscientiousness, but also of the reverse. 

^ [The analysis of this part of the dream is further elaborated below 
(p. 294 f.). It had already been used by Freud as an example of the 
mechanism of displacement in Section 2 1 of Part I of his very early 
‘Project for a Scientific Psychology’, written in the autumn of 1895 and 
printed as an Appendix to Freud (1950a).] 


JSiind prdbdbly the sytringe had ntit heen diaan. Tbk 'wafiyet anotbgr 
.aeousatioB against Otto, bat desrived from ;a ^differnift source. I 
frad happened the da<)' hcifore to meet the scm 'cstf an 'bid lady «ff 
lec^ty-two, to whom 1 had to give an 'injectimn'dfmnflnifiliKa twice 
.a tday.-^ At the momenrt she M-as in the couMtiry ;and he ttbld me 
flhsKt ^e -was stuSering from phlebitis. I had ;at once thought it 
■nsnust be an infrltration caused bx- a dirty syringe. I was proud 
(of jthe fact that in two years I had not caused a simgle fr^hra- 
I took constant pains to be sure that iheffjparaE^e was dean. 
J® short, I was conscientious. The phlebitis brought me back 
(0®oe mo-re to my wife, who had sttSered from thrombosis during 
one of her pregnancies: and no-w iiiree similar situations came 
fts my recollection in^■olving my wfr'e, Irma and the dead 
J^thilde. The identity of these situations had evidently enabled 
m« to substitute the three figures for one another in the dream. 

I have now completed the interpretation of the dream.® 
While I was carrying it out I had some difficulty in keeping at 
bay all the ideas which were bound to be provoked by a com- 
parison between the content of the dream and the concealed 
thoughts lying behind it. And in the meantime the ‘meaning’ of 
the dream was borne in upon me. I became aware of an inten- 
tion which was carried into effect by the dream and which must 
have been my motive for dreaming it. The dream fulfilled cer- 
tain wishes which were started in me by the events of the pre- 
vious evening (the news given me by Otto and my writing out 
of tlie case history). The conclusion of the dream, that is to say, 
was that I was not responsible lor the persistence of Irma’s 
pains, bi4t that Otto was. Otto had in fact annoyed me by his 
remarks about Irma’s incomplete cure, and the dream gave me 
my revenge by throwing the reproach back on to him. The 
dream acquitted me of the responsibility for Irma’s condition 
by showing that it was due to other factors — ^it produced a 
whole series of reasons. The dream represented a particular 

‘ [This old lady makes frequent appearances in Freud’s -writings at 
diis period. See below, p. 239, and The Psychope^tdogy of Eoerydey lAfe 
(19016), Chapter VIII(6 and g) and Chapter XII{C6). Her death is 
reported in a letter to Fliess of July 8, 1901 (Freud, 1950a, Letter 

t \PootuoU added 1909;} Though it will be understood that I have not 
t (.-ported everything thai oeeurred to me the process of mter- 



iiiisiitfe 'Gif atiia^ as 1 shcwild have wished iit to be. lihtts its ammt 
ime iftdfiiimM of a wish and its mo&oe was a wish. 

infa®s muifch leapt to the eyes. But Trtatiy '<rf the details of Iflttc 
'dtPESiMi also became intellie^ble to me frewn the point of view 'of 
wfehdtdMmeat. Not only did I revenge myself on Otto for 
1®® hasay in talcing .sides against me by representing hiM -OS 
baas^ too hasty in his medical treatment (in giving the S!a|ec> 
tS®ni ).5 bnt 1 also fevenged my'self on him for giving me thte fesid 
Mqnear which had an aroma of fusel oil. And in the dreaHi 1 
feand an e'scpres.sion which united the txvo reproaches: the ist- 
jeetton was of a preparation of propyl. This did not satisfy me 
and I pursued my revenge finlhcr by contrasting him with 'his 
more trustworthy competitor. 1 seemed to be sa^dng: T likfeiWw 
better thanjw?c’ BiU Otto vva.s not the only person to suSfef 
from tlie vials of my 'svrath. T took revenge as well on my dis'' 
obedient patient by exchanging her for one who was wiser 4ttd 
less recalcitrant. Nor did I allow Dr. M. to escape the COMse?- 
quences of his contradiction but showed him by means of a tlteaf 
allusion that he was an ignoramus on the subject. (‘DyremiS^ 
wiU supervene^ etc.’) Tndceii I seemed to be appealing from him 
to someone else with greater knowledge (to my friend who had 
told me of tri7ticthyla!nin) just as I had turned from Irma to her 
friend and from Otto to Leopold. ‘Take these people away! 
Give me three others of my choice instead! Then I shall be free 
of tltese undcseA'cd reproaches!’ The groundlessness of the 
reproaches was proved for me in the dream in the most el'aboi> 
ate fashion. / was not to Itlamc for Irma’s pains, since she herself 
was to blame for tlicm by rcfiising to accept my solution. / was 
not concerned witli Inna's pains, since they were of an organic 
nature and quite incurable by psychological treatment. Irma’s 
pains could be sati.sractorily explained by her widowhood (cf. 
the trimethylamin) which J had no means of altering. Irma’s 
pains had been caused by Otto giving her an incautious injec- 
tion of an unsuitable drug — a thing I should never have done. 
Irma’s pains were the result of an injection with a dirty needle, 
like my old lady’s phlebitis — whereas / never did any harm with 
my injections. I noticed, it is true, that these explanations of 
Inna’s pains (which agreed in exculpating me) were not entirely 
consistent with one another, and indeed that they were mutually 
exclusive. The whole pica — for the dream was nothing else — 
reminded one vividly of the defence put forward by the man 


who was charged by one of his neighbours with having given 
him back a borrowed kettle in a damaged condition. The 
defendant asserted first, that he had given it back undamaged; 
secondly, that the kettle had a hole in it when he borrowed it; 
and thirdly, that he had never borrowed a kettle from his neigh- 
bour at all. So much the better: if only a single one of these 
three lines of defence were to be accepted as valid, the man 
would have to be acquitted. ^ 

Certain other themes played a part in the dream, which were 
not so obviously connected with my exculpation from Irma’s 
illness; my daughter’s illness and that of my patient who bore 
the same name, the injuarious effect of cocaine, the disorder of 
my patient who was travelling in Egypt, my concern about my 
wife’s health and about that of my brother and of Dr. M., my 
own physical ailments, my anxiety about my absent friend who 
suffered from suppurative rhinitis. But when I came to consider 
all of these, they could all be collected into a single group of 
ideas and labelled, as it were, ‘concern about my own and other 
people’s health — professional conscientiousness’. I called to mind 
the obscure disagreeable impression I had had when Otto 
brought me the news of Irma’s condition. This group of thoughts 
that played a part in the dream enabled me retrospectively to 
put this transient impression into words. It was as though he 
had said to me: ‘You don’t take your medical duties seriously 
enough. You’re not conscientious; you don’t carry out what 
you’ve undertaken.’ Thereupon, this group of thoughts seemed 
to have put itself at my disposal, so that I could produce evi- 
dence of how highly conscientious I was, of how deeply I was 
concerned about the health of my relations, my friends and my 
patients. It was a noteworthy fact that this material also in- 
cluded some disagreeable memories, which supported my friend 
Otto’s accusation rather than my own vindication. The material 
was, as one might say, impartial; but nevertheless there was an 
unmistakable connection between this more extensive group of 
thoughts which underlay the dream and the narrower subject 
of the dream which gave rise to the wish to be innocent of 
Irma’s illness. 

I will not pretend that I have completely uncovered the 

^ [This anecdote is discussed by Freud in relation to this passage in 
Chapter II, Section 8, and Chapter VII, Section 2, of his book on jokes. 
(Freud, 1905e.)] 


meaning of this dream or that its interpretation is without a 
gap. I could spend much more time over it, derive further in- 
formation from it and discuss fresh problems raised by it. I 
myself know the points from which further trains of thought 
could be followed. But considerations which arise in the case 
of every dream of my own restrain me from pursuing my inter- 
pretative work. If anyone should feel tempted to express a hasty 
condemnation of my reticence, I would advise him to make the 
experiment of being franker than I am. For the moment I am 
satisfied with the achievement of this one piece of fresh know- 
ledge. If we adopt the method of interpreting dreams which I 
have indicated here, we shall find that dreams really have a 
meaning and are far from being the expression of a fragmentary 
activity of the brain, as the authorities have claimed. When the 
work of interpretation has been completed, we perceive that a dream is 
the fulfilment of a wish.^ 

1 [In a letter to Fliess on June 12, 1900 (Freud, 1950a, Letter 137), 
Freud describes a later visit to Bellevue, the house where he had this 
dream. ‘Do you suppose’, he writes, ‘that some day a marble tablet will 
be placed on the house, inscribed with these words? — 

■ In This House, on July 24th, 1895 
j the Secret of Elreams was Revealed 
I to Dr. Sigm. Freud 

At the moment there seems little prospect of it.’] 



When, after passing through a narrow defile, we suddenly 
emerge upon a piece of high ground, where the path divides 
and the finest prospects open up on every side, we may pause 
for a moment and consider in which direction we shall first 
turn our steps. Such is the case with us, now that we have 
surmounted the first interpretation of a dream. We find our- 
selves in the full daylight of a sudden discovery. Dreams are not 
to be likened to the unregulated sounds that rise from a musical 
instrument struck by the blow of some external force instead of 
by a player’s hand [cf. p. 78];''they are not meaningless, they 
are not absurd; they do not imply that one portion of our store 
of ideas is asleep while another portion is beginning to wake. 
On the contrary, they are psychical phenomena of complete 
validity — ^fulfilments of wishes; they can be inserted into th^ 
chain of intelligible waking mental acts; they are constructeci 
by a highly complicated activity of the mind. 

But no sooner have we begun to rejoice at this discovery than 
we are assailed by a flood of questions. If, as we are told by 
dream-interpretation, a dream represents a fulfilled wish, what 
is the origin of the remarkable and puzzling form in which the 
wish-fulfilment is expressed? ^^^lat alteration have the dream- 
thoughts undergone before being changed into the manifest 
dream which we remember when we wake up? How does that 
alteration take place? What is the source of the material that 
has been modified into the dream? What is the source of the 

^ [In a letter to Fliess of August 6, 1899 (Freud, 1950a, Letter 114), 
Freud describes the opening chapters of this book as follows: ‘The whole 
thing is planned on the model of an imaginary walk. First comes the 
dark wood of the authorities (who cannot see the trees), where there is 
no clear view and it is easy to go astray. Then there is a cavernous defile 
through which I lead my readers — ^my specimen dream with its peculi- 
arities, its details, its indiscretions and its bad jokes — and then, all at 
once, the high ground and the open prospect and the question: “Which 
way do you want to go?” ’] 




many peculiarities that are to be observed in the dream- 
thoughts — such, for instance, as the fact that they may be 
mutually contradictory? (Cf. the analogy of the borrowed 
kettle on p. 120.) Can a dream tell us anything new about our 
internal psychical processes? Can its content correct opinions 
we have held during the day? 

I propose that for the moment we should leave all these 
questions on one side and pursue our way further along one 
particular path. We have learnt that a dream can represent a 
wish as fulfilled. Our first concern must be to enquire whether 
this is a universal characteristic of dreams or whether it merely 
happened to be the content of the particular dream (the dream 
of Irma’s injection) which was the first that we analysed. For 
even if we are prepared to find that every dream has a meaning 
and a psychical value, the possibility must remain open of this 
meaning not being the same in every dream. Our first dream 
was the fulfilment of a wish; a second one might turn out to be 
a fulfilled fear; the content of a third might be a reflection; 
while a fourth might merely reproduce a memory. Shall we 
find other wishful dreams besides this one? or are there perhaps 
no dreams but wishful ones? 

It is easy to prove that dreams often reveal themselves with- 
out any disguise as fulfilments of wishes; so that it may seem 
surprising that the language of dreams was not understood long 
ago. For instance, there is a dream that I can produce in myself 
as often as I like — experimentally, as it were. If I eat anchovies 
or olives or any other highly salted food in the evening, I 
develop thirst during the night which wakes me up. But my 
waking is preceded by a dream; and this always has the same 
content, namely, that I am drinking. I dream I am swallowing 
down water in great gulps, and it has the delicious taste that 
nothing can equal but a cool drink when one is parched with 
thirst. Then I wake up and have to have a real drink. This 
simple dream is occasioned by the thirst which I become aware 
of when I wake. The thirst gives rise to a wish to drink, and the 
dream shows me that wish fulfilled. In doing so it is performing 
a function — which it was easy to divine. I am a good sleeper 
and not accustomed to be woken by any physical need. If I can 
succeed in appeasing my thirst by dreaming that I am drinking, 
then I need not wake up in order to quench it. This, then, is a 


dream of convenience. Dreaming has taken the place of action, 
as it often does elsewhere in life. Unluckily my need for water to 
quench my thirst cannot be satisfied by a dream in the same 
way as my thirst for revenge against my friend Otto and Dr. M.; 
but the good intention is there in both cases. Not long ago this 
same dream of mine showed some modification. I had felt 
thirsty even before I fell asleep, and I had emptied a glass of 
water that stood on the table beside my bed. A few hours later 
during the night I had a fresh attack of thirst, and this had 
inconvenient results. In order to provide myself with some water 
I should have had to get up and fetch the glass standing on the 
table by my wife’s bed. I therefore had an appropriate dream 
that my wife was giving me a drink out of a vase; this vase was 
an Etruscan cinerary urn which I had brought back from a 
journey to Italy and had since given away. But the water in it 
tasted so salty (evidently because of the ashes in the urn) that I 
woke up. It will be noticed how conveniently everything was 
arranged in this dream. Since its only purpose was to fulfil a 
wish, it could be completely egoistical. A love of comfort and 
convenience is not really compatible with consideration for 
other people. The introduction of the cinerary urn was prob- 
ably yet another wish-fulfilment. I was sorry that the vase was 
no longer in my possession — just as the glass of water on my 
wife’s table was out of my reach. The urn with its ashes fitted 
in, too, with the salty taste in my mouth which had now grown 
stronger and which I knew was bound to wake me.^ 

» VVeygandt (1893, 41) was aware of the occurrence of thirst dreams, 
for he writes: ‘The sensation of thirst is perceived with greater precision 
than any other; it always gives rise to an idea of its being quenched. The 
manner in which the thirst is represented as being quenched in the 
dream varies, and derives its special form from some near-by memory. 
Another general feature in these cases is that immediately after the idea 
of the thirst being quenched there follows a disappointment over the 
small effect produced by the imaginary refreshment.’ Weygandt, how- 
ever, overlooks the fact that this reaction of a dream to a stimulus is one 
which holds good universally. Other people who are attacked by thirst 
in the night may wake up without having had a dream; but that is no 
objection to my experiment. It merely shows that they are worse sleepers 
than I am . — [Added 1914;] Compare in this connection Isaiah xxix, 8: 
‘It shall even be as when an hungry man dreameth, and, behold, he eat- 
eth; but he awaketh, and his soul is empty: or as when a thirsty man 
dreameth, and, behold, he drinketh; but he awaketh, and, behold, he is 
faint, and his soul hath appetite.’ 



Dreams of convenience like these were very frequent in my 
youth. Having made it a practice as far back as I can remember 
to work late into the night, I always found it difficult to wake 
early. I used then to have a dream of being out of bed and 
standing by the washing-stand; after a while I was no longer 
able to disguise from myself the fact that I was really still in 
bed, but in the meantime I had had a little more sleep. A 
slothful dream of this kind, which was expressed in a particu- 
larly amusing and elegant form, has been reported to me by a 
young medical colleague who seems to share my liking for sleep. 
The landlady of his lodgings in the neighbourhood of the 
hospital had strict instructions to wake him in time every morn- 
ing but found it no easy job to carry them out. One morning 
sleep seemed peculiarly sweet. The landlady called through the 
door; ‘Wake up, Herr Pepi! it’s time to go to the hospital!’ In 
response to this he had a dream that he was lying in bed in a 
room in the hospital, and that there was a card over the bed on 
which was written: ‘Pepi H., medical student, age 22.’ While he 
was dreaming, he said to himself ‘As I’m already in the hospital, 
there’s no need for me to go there’ — and turned over and went 
on sleeping. In this way he openly confessed the motive for his 
dream. ^ 

Here is another dream in which once again the stimulus pro- 
duced its effect during actual sleep. One of my women patients, 
who had been obliged to undergo an operation on her jaw 
which had taken an unfavourable course, was ordered by her 
doctors to wear a cooling apparatus on the side of her face day 
and night. But as soon as she fell asleep she used to throw it off. 
One day, after she had once more thrown the apparatus on the 
floor, I was asked to speak to her seriously about it. ‘This time 
I really couldn’t help it,’ she answered. ‘It was because of a 
dream I had in the night. I dreamt I was in a box at the opera 
and very much enjoying the performance. But Herr Karl Meyer 
was in the nursing-home and complaining bitterly of pains in 
his jaw. So I told myself that sis I hadn’t any pain I didn’t need 
the apparatus; and I threw it away.’ The dream of this poor 
sufferer seems silmost like a concrete representation of a phrase 
that sometimes forces its way on to people’s lips in unpleasant 

1 [This dream was reported by Freud in a letter to Fliess, dated 
March 4, 1895 (Freud, 1950a, Letter 22) — ^the earliest recorded hint 
at the -wish-fulfilment theory.] 



situations; ‘I must say I could tliink of something more agree- 
able than this.’ The dream gives a picture of this more agreeable 
thing. The Herr Karl Meyer on to whom the dreamer trans- 
planted her pains was the most indifferent young man of her 
acquaintance that she could call to mind. 

The wish-fulfilment can be detected equally easily in some 
other dreams which I have collected from normal people. A 
friend of mine, who knows my theory of dreams and has told 
his wife of it, said to me one day: ‘My wife has asked me to 
tell you that she had a dream yesterday that she was having her 
period. You can guess what that means.’ I could indeed guess 
it. The fact that this young married woman dreamt that she 
/ was having her period meant that she had missed her period. 
I could well believe that she would have been glad to go on 
enjoying her freedom a little longer before shouldering the 
burden of motherhood. It was a neat way of announcing her 
first pregnancy. Another friend of mine wrote and told me that, 
not long before, his wife had dreamt that she had noticed some 
milk stains on the front of her vest. This too was an announce- 
ment of pregnancy, but not of a first one. The young mother 
was wishing that she might have more nourishment to give her 
second child than she had had for her first. 

A young woman had been cut off from society for weeks on 
end while she nursed her child through an infectious illness. 
After the child’s recovery, she had a dream of being at a party 
at which, among others, she met Alphonse Daudet, Paul 
Bourget, and Marcel Prevost; they were all most affable to her 
and highly amusing. All of the authors resembled their por- 
traits, except Marcel Prevost, of whom she had never seen a 
picture; and he looked like . . . the disinfection officer who had 
fumigated the sick-room the day before and who had been her 
first visitor for so long. Thus it seems possible to give a complete 
translation of the dream: ‘It’s about time for something more 
amusing than this perpetual sick-nursing.’ 

These examples will perhaps be enough to show that dreams 
which can only be understood as fulfilments of wishes and which 
bear their meaning upon their faces without disguise are to be 
found under the most frequent and various conditions. They are 
mostly short and simple dreams, which afford a pleasant con- 
trast to the confused and exuberant compositions that have in 
the main attracted the attention of the authorities. Neverthe- 


less, it will repay us to pause for a moment over these simple 
dreams. We may expect to find the very simplest forms of 
dreams in children, since there can be no doubt that their 
psychical productions are less complicated than those of adults. 
Child psychology, in my opinion, is destined to perform the 
same useful services for adult psychology that the investigation 
of the structure or development of the lower animals has per- 
formed for research into the structure of the higher classes of 
animals. Few deliberate efforts have hitherto been made to 
make use of child psychology for this purpose. 

The dreams of young childien are frequently^ pure wish- 
fulfilments and are in that case® quite uninteresting compared 
with the dreams of adults. They raise no problems for solution; 
but on the other hand they are of inestimable importance in 
proving that, in their essential nature, dreams represent fulfil- 
ments of wishes. I have been able to collect a few instances of 
such dreams from material provided by my own children. 

I have to thank an excursion which we made to the lovely 
village of Hallstatt® in the summer of 1896 for two dreams: one 
of these was dreamt by my daughte r, who was then eight and a 
half, and the other by her brother of five and a quarter. I must 
explain by way of preamble tliat we had been spending the 
summer on a hillside near Aussee, from which, in fine weather, 
we enjoyed a splendid view of the Dachstein. The Simony Hiitte 
could be clearly distinguished through a telescope. The children 
made repeated attempts at seeing it through the telescope — I 
cannot say with what success. Before our excursion I had told 
the children that Hallstatt lay at the foot of the Dachstein. They 
very much looked forward to the day. From Hallstatt we walked 
up the Echerntal, which delighted the children with its succes- 
sion of changing landscapes. One of them, however, the five- 
year-old boy, gradually became fretful. Each time a new 

1 [This word was added in 1911. The following comment upon this 
qualifying adverb appears in Gesammelte Schriften, 3 (1925), 21: ‘Experi- 
ence has shown that distorted dreams, which stand in need of inter- 
pretation, are already found in children of four or five; and this is in full 
agreement with our theoretical views on the determining conditions of 
distortion in dreams.’] 

® [Before 1911: ‘for that reason’.] 

» [In the Salzkammergut district of Upper Austria. — ‘EchemtaT 
(below) is misprinted ‘Eschemtal’ in all the German editions.] 


mountain came into view he asked if that was the Dachstein 
and I had to say ‘No, only one of the foothills.’ After he had 
asked the question several times, he fell completely silent; and 
he refused point-blank to come with us up the steep path to the 
waterfall. I thought he was tired. But next morning he came to 
me with a radiant face and said: ‘Last night I dreamt we were 
at the Simony Hiitte.’ I understood him then. When I had 
spoken about the Dachstein, he had expected to climb the 
mountain in the course of our excursion to Hallstatt and to find 
himself at close quarters with the hut which there had been so 
much talk about in connection witli the telescope. But when he 
found that he was being fobbed off with foothills and a water- 
fall, he felt disappointed and out of spirits. The dream was a 
compensation. I tried to discover its details, but they were 
scanty: ‘You have to climb up steps for six hours’ — which was 
what he had been told. 

The same excursion stirred up wishes in the eight-and-a-half- 
year-old girl as well — wishes which had to be satisfied in a 
dream. We had taken our neighbour’s twelve-year-old son with 
us to Hallstatt. He was already a full-blown gallant, and there 
were signs that he had engaged the young lady’s affections. 
Next morning she told me the following dream: ‘Just fancy! I 
had a dream that Emil was one of the family and called you 
“Father” and “Mother” and slept with us in the big room like 
the boys. Then Mother came in and threw a handful of big 
bars of chocolate, wrapped up in blue and green paper, under 
our beds.’ Her brothers, who have evidently not inherited a 
faculty for understanding dreams, followed the lead of the 
authorities and declared that the dream was nonsense. The girl 
herself defended one part of the dream at least; and it throws 
light on the theory of the neuroses to learn which part. ‘Of course 
it’s nonsense Emil being one of the family; but the part about 
the bars of chocolate isn’t.’ It had been precisely on that point 
that I had been in the dark, but the girl’s mother now gave me 
the explanation. On their way home from the station the 
children had stopped in front of a slot-machine from which 
they were accustomed to obtain bars of chocolate of that very 
kind, wrapped in shiny metallic paper. They had wanted to get 
some; but their mother rightly decided that the day had already 
fulfilled enough wishes and left this one over to be folfilled by 
the dream. I myself had not observed the incident. But the part 



of the dream which had been proscribed by my daughter was 
immediately clear to me. I myself had heard our well-behaved 
guest telling the children on the walk to wait till Father and 
Mother caught up with them. The little girl’s dream turned this 
temporary kinship into permanent adoption. Her affection was 
not yet able to picture any other forms of companionship than 
those which were represented in the dream and which were 
based on her relation to her brothers. It was of course impossible 
to discover without questioning her why the bars of chocolate 
were thrown under the beds. 

A friend of mine has reported a dream to me which was very 
much like my son’s. The dreamer was an eight-year-old girl. 
Her father had started off with several children on a walk to 
Dornbach,^ with the idea of visiting the Rohrer Hiitte. As it 
was getting late, however, he had turned back, promising the 
children to make up for the disappointment another time. On 
their way home they had passed the sign-post that marks the 
path up to the Hameau. The children had then asked to be 
taken up to the Hameau; but once again for the same reason 
they had to be consoled with the promise of another day. Next 
morning the eight-year-old girl came to her father and said in 
satisfied tones: ‘Daddy, I dreamt last night that you went with 
us to the Rohrer Hiitte and the Hameau.’ In her impatience 
she had anticipated the fulfilment of her father’s promises. 

Here is an equally straightforward dream, provoked by the 
beauty of the scenery at Aussee in another of my daughters, 
who was at that time three and a quarter. She had crossed the 
lake for the first time, and the crossing had been too short for 
her: when we reached the landing-stage she had not wanted to 
leave the boat and had wept bitterly. Next morning she said: 
‘Last night I went on the lake.’ Let us hope that her dream- 
crossing had been of a more satisfying length. 

My eldest boy, then eight years old, already had dreams of 
his phantasies coming true: he dreamt that he was driving in a 
chariot with Achilles and that Diomede was the charioteer. As 
may be guessed, he had been excited the day before by a book 
on the legends of Greece which had been given to his elder 

If I may include words spoken by children in their sleep under 
the heading of dreams, I can at this point quote one of the most 
^ [In the hills just outside Vienna.] 



youthful dreams in my whole collection. My youngest daughter, 
then nineteen months old, had had an attack of vomiting one 
morning and had consequently been kept without food all day. 
During the night after this day of starvation she was heard call- 
ing out excitedly in her sleep: ‘Anna Fweud, stwawbewwies, 
wild stwawbewwies, omblet, pudden!’ At that time she was in 
the habit of using her own name to express the idea of taking 
possession of something. The menu included pretty well every- 
thing that must have seemed to her to make up a desirable meal. 
The fact that strawberries appeared in it in two varieties was a 
demonstration against the domestic health regulations. It was 
based upon the circumstance, which she had no doubt observed, 
that her nurse had attributed her indisposition to a surfeit of 
strawberries. She was thus retaliating in her dream against this 
unwelcome verdict.^ 

Though we think highly of the happiness of childhood because 
it is still innocent of sexual desires, we should not forget what a 
fruitful source of disappointment and renunciation, and conse- 
quently what a stimulus to dreaming, may be provided by the 
other of the two great vital instincts.® Here is another instance 
of this. My nephew, aged 22 months, had been entrusted with 
the duty of congratulating me on my birthday and of presenting 
me with a basket of cherries, which are still scarcely in season 
at that time of year. He seems to have found the task a hard 

1 The same feat was accomplished shortly afterwards by a dream pro- 
duced by this little girl’s grandmother — their combined ages came to 
some seventy years. She had been obliged to go without food for a whole 
day on account of a disturbance due to a floating kidney. During the 
following night, no doubt imagining herself back in the heyday of her 
girlhood, she dreamt that she had been ‘asked out’ to both of the princi- 
pal meals and been served at both with the most appetizing delicacies. — 
[The little girl’s dream had been reported to Fliess not long /'.iter its 
occurrence (Freud, 1950a, Letter 73 of October 31, 1897).] 

“ [Footnote added 1911:] A closer study of the mental life of children 
has taught us, to be sure, that sexual instinctual forces, in infantile form, 
play a large enough part, and one that has been too long overlooked, in 
the psychical activity of children. Closer study, too, has given us groimds 
for feeling some doubt in regard to the happiness of childhood as it has 
been constructed by adults in retrospect. Gf. my Three Essays on the 
Theory of Sexuality (1905d). — [The remarkable inconsistency between 
this sentence in the text and several other passages (e.g. on p. 256 ff. 
below) is commented on in the editor’s preface to the last-mentioned 
work in the seventh volume of the Standard Edition.] 



one, for he kept on repeating ‘Ghewwies in it’ but could not be 
induced to hand the present over. However, he found a means 
of compensation. He had been in the habit every morning of 
telling his mother that he had a dream of the ‘white soldier’ — 
a Guards officer in his white cloak whom he had once gazed 
at admiringly in the street. On the day after his birthday 
sacrifice he awoke with a cheerful piece of news, which could 
only have originated from a dream; ‘Hermann eaten all the 

do not myself know what animals dream of . But a proverb, 
to which my attention was drawn by one of my students, does 

* [Footnote added 1911:] The fact should be mentioned that children 
soon begin to have more complicated and less transparent dreams, and 
that, on the other hand, adults in certain circumstances often have 
dreams of a similarly simple, infantile character. The wealth of unex- 
pected material that may occur in the dreams of children of four or five 
is shown by examples in my ‘Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year-Old 
Boy’ (19096) and in Jung (1910a). — [AddedX^X^-^ For analytical inter- 
pretations of children’s dreams see also von Hug-Hellmuth (1911 and 
1913), Putnam (1912), van Raalte (1912), Spielrein (1913) and Tausk 
(1913). Children’s dreams are also reported by Bianchieri (1912), Buse- 
mann (1909 and 1910), Doglia and Bianchieri (1910-11) and, in par- 
ticular, Wiggam (1909), who lays stress on their trend towards wish- 
fulfilment .' — [Added 1911:] On the other hand, dreams of an infantile tyjw 
seem to occur in adults with special frequency when they find themselves 
in unusual external circumstances. Thus Otto Nordenskjold (1904, 1 , 
336 f.) writes as follows of the members of his expedition while they were 
wintering in the Antarctic: ‘The direction taken by our innermost 
thoughts was very clearly shown by our dreams, which were never more 
vivid or numerous than at this time. Even those of us who otherwise 
dreamt but rarely had long stories to tell in the morning when we 
exchanged our latest experiences in this world of the imagination. They 
were all concerned with the outside world which was now so remote from 
us, though they were often adapted to our actual circumstances. One of 
my companions had a particularly characteristic dream of being back in 
his school class-room, where it was his task to skin miniature seals which 
had been specially prepared for instructional purposes. Eating and 
drinking, however, were the pivot round which our dreams most often 
revolved. One of us, who had a special gift for attending large luncheon 
parties during the night, was proud if he was able to report in the morn- 
ing that he had “got through a three-course dinner”. Another of us 
dreamt of tobacco, of whole mountains of tobacco; while a third dreamt 
of a ship in full sail coming in across open water. Yet another dream is 
worth repeating. The postman brought round the mail and gave a long 
explanation of why we had had to wait so long for it: he had delivered 



claim to know. ‘What’, asks the proverb, ‘do geese dream of?’ 
And it replies; ‘Of maize.’ ^ The whole theory that dreams are 
wish-fulfilments is contained in these two phrases.® 

It will be seen that we might have arrived at our theory of 
the hidden meaning of dreams most rapidly merely by following 

it at the wrong address and had only succeeded in recovering it with 
great difficulty. We dreamt, of course, of still more impossible things. 
But there was a most .striking lack of imaginativeness shown by almost 
all the dreams that I dreamt myself or heard described. It would cer- 
tainly be of great psychological interest if all these dreams could be 
recorded. And it will easily be understood how much we longed for 
sleep, since it could offer each one of ik everything that he most eagerly 
desired.’ [This passage is much abbreviated in the English translation 
of Nordenskjbld’s book (1905, 290 ). — Added 1914:] According to Du 
Prel (1885, 231), ‘Mungo Park, when he was almost dying of thirst on 
one of his African journeys, dreamt unceasingly of the well-watered 
valleys and meadows of his home. Similarly, Baron Trenck suffering 
torments of hunger while he was a prisoner in the fortress at Magdeburg, 
dreamt of being surrounded by sumptuous meals; and George Back, 
who took part in Franklin’s first expedition, when he was almost dying 
of starvation as a result of his fearful privations, dreamt constantly and 
regularly of copious meals.’ 

1 [Footnote added 1911:] A Hungarian proverb quoted by Ferenezi 
[1910] goes further and declares that ‘pigs dream of acorns and geese 
dream of maize ’. — [Added 1914:] A Jewish proverb runs: ‘What do hens 
dream of? — Of millet.’ (Bernstein and Segel, 1908, 116.) 

“ [Footnote added 1914:] I am far from seeking to maintain that I am 
the first writer to have had the idea of deriving dreams from wishes. 
(Cf. the opening sentences of my next chapter.) Those who attach any 
importance to anticipations of this kind may go back to classical an- 
tiquity and quote Herophilus, a physician who lived under the first 
Ptolemy. According to Buchsenschiitz (1868, 33), he distinguished three 
sorts of dreams: those which are sent by the gods, those which are 
natural and arise when the mind forms a picture of something that is 
agreeable to it and will come about, and those which are of a mixed 
nature and which arise of their own accord from the emergence of pic- 
tures in which we see what we wbh for. J. Starcke (1913, [248]) has 
drawn attention to a dream in Schemer’s collection which that writer 
himself describes as the fulfilment of a wish. Schemer (1861, 239) writes; 
‘The dreamer’s imagination fulfilled her waking wish so promptly, 
simply because that wish was emotionally active in her.’ Schemer 
classes this dream among ‘dreams of mood’; alongside it he places 
‘dreams of erotic yearning’ in men and women, and ‘dreams of ill- 
temper’. There is clearly no question of Schemer attributing any more 
importance to wishes in the instigation of dreams than to any other wak- 
ing mental state: still less is there any question of his having related 
wishes to the essential nature of dreaming. 



linguistic usage. It is true that common language sometimes 
speaks of dreams with contempt. (The phrase 'Trauma sind 
Sckaume [Dreams are froth]’ seems intended to support the 
scientific estimate of dreams.) But, on the whole, ordinary usage 
treats dreams above all as the blessed fulfillers of wishes. If ever 
we find our expectation surpassed by the event, we exclaim in 
our delight: T should never have imagined such a thing even in 
my wildest dreams.’^ 

^ [Children’s dreams (including many of those recorded in this chap- 
ter) and dreams of an infantile type are discussed in Lecture VIII of 
Freud’s Introductoty Lectures (1916-17) and more briefly in Section III dt 
his short study On Dreams (1901a) (Standard Ed., 5, 643 f.).] 



If I proceed to put forward the assertion that the meaning of 
every dream is the fulfilment of a wish, that is to say that there 
cannot be any dreams but wishful dreams, I feel certain in 
advance that I shall meet with the most categorical con- 

‘There is nothing new,’ I shall be told, ‘in the idea that some 
dreams are to be regarded as wish-fulfilments; the authorities 
noticed that fact long ago. Cf. Radestock (1879, 137 f.), Volkelt 
(1875, 110 f.), Purkinje (1846, 456), Tissie (1898, 70), Simon 
(1888, 42, on the hunger dreams of Baron Trenck while he was 
a prisoner), and a passage in Griesinger (1845, 89).^ But to 
assert that there are no dreams other than wish-fulfilment 
dreams is only one more unjustifiable generalization, though 
fortunately one which it is easy to disprove. After all, plenty of 
dreams occur which contain the most distressing subject- 
matter but never a sign of any wish-fulfilment. Eduard von 
Hartmann, the philosopher of pessimism, is probably furthest 
removed from the wish-fulfilment theory. In his Philosophic des 
Unbewussten (1890, 2 , 344) he writes: “When it comes to dreams, 
we find all the annoyances of waking life carried over into the 
state of sleep; the only thing we do not find is what can to some 
extent reconcile an educated man to life — ^scientific and artistic 
enjoyment. . . But even less disgruntled observers have in- 
sisted that pain and unpleasure are more common in dreams 
than pleasure: for instance, Scholz (1893, 57), Volkelt (1875, 
80), and others. Indeed two ladies, Florence Hallam and Sarah 
Weed (1896, 499), have actually given statistical expression, 
based on a study of their own dreams, to the preponderance of 
unpleasure in dreaming. They find that 57-2 per cent of dreams 
are “disagreeable” and only 28-6 per cent, positively “pleasant”. 

^ [Footnote added 1914:] A writer as early as Plotinus, the Neoplaton- 
ist, is quoted by Du Prel (1885, 276) as saying: ‘When our desires are 
aroused, imagination comes along and, as it were, presents us with the 
objects of those desires.’ [Ennead, iv, 4, 17.] 



And apart from these dreams, which carry over into sleep the 
various distressing emotions of life, there are an xiet y-dreams, in 
which that most dreadful of all unpleasurable feelings holds us 
in its grasp till we awaken. And the commonest victims of these 
anxiety-dreams are precisely children,^ whose dreams you have 
described as undisguised wish-fulfilments.’ 

It does in fact look as though anxiety-dreams make it impos- 
sible to assert as a general proposition (based on the examples 
quoted in my last chapter) that dreams are wish-fulfilments; 
indeed they seem to stamp any such proposition as an absurdity. 

Nevertheless, there is no great difficulty in meeting these 
apparently conclusive objections. It is only necessary to take 
notice of the fact that my theory is not based on a consideration 
of the manifest content of dreams but refers to the thoughts 
which are shown by the work of interpretation to lie behind 
dreams. We must make a contrast between the manifest and the 
latent content of dreams. There is no question that there are 
dreams whose manifest content is of the most distressing kind. 
But has anyone tried to interpret such dreams? to reveal the 
latent thoughts behind them? If not, then the two objections 
raised against my theory will not hold water: it still remains 
possible that distressing dreams and anxiety-dreams, when they 
have been interpreted, may turn out to be fulfilments of wishes.* 

When in the course of a piece of scientific work we come upon 
a problem which is difficult to solve, it is often a good plan to 

^ Cf. Debacker (1881) on pavor nocturnus. 

* {Footnote added 1909:] It is hard to credit the obstinacy with which 
readers and critics of this book shut their eyes to this consideration and 
overlook the fundamental distinction between the manifest and latent 
content of dreams . — [Added 1914:] On the other hand, nothing in the 
literature of the subject comes so near to my hypothesis as a passage in 
James Sully’s essay ‘The Dream as a Revelation’ (1893, 364). The fact 
that I am only now quoting it for the first time is no sign of disparage- 
ment: ‘It would seem then, after all, that dreams are not the utter non- 
sense they have been said to be by such authorities as Chaucer, Shake- 
speare and Milton. The chaotic aggregations of our night-fancy have a 
significance and communicate new knowledge. Like some letter in 
cypher, the dream-inscription when scrutinized closely loses its first look 
of balderdash and takes on the aspect of a serious, intelligible message. 
Or, to vary the figure slightly, we may say that, like some palimpsest, 
the dream discloses beneath its worthless surface-characters traces of an 
'old and precious communication.’ [Freud prints the two last sentences 
in spaced type.] 



Then followed the two other pieces which I shall pass over 
— once more a thought followed by a picture. 

The interpretation of the dream took place as follows. 

When, during the course of the morning, the dream came 
into my head, I laughed aloud and said; ‘The dream’s non- 
sense!’ But it refused to go away and followed me about all 
day, till at last in the evening I began to reproach myself; ‘If 
one of your patients who was interpreting a dream could find 
nothing better to say than that it was nonsense, you would take 
him up about it and suspect that the dream had some disagree- 
able story at the back of it which he wanted to avoid becoming 
aware of. Treat yourself in the same way. Your opinion that the 
dream is nonsense only means that you have an internal resist- 
ance against interpreting it. Don’t let yourself be put off like 
this.’ So I set about the inteipretation. 

‘R. was my uncle,’ What could that mean? I never had more 
than one uncle — Uncle Josef. ^ There was an unhappy story 
attached to him. Once — more than thirty years ago, — in his 
eagerness to make money, he allowed himself to be involved in 
a transaction of a kind that is severely punished by the law, and 
he was in fact punished for it. My father, whose hair turned 
grey from grief in a few days, used always to say that Uncle 
Josef was not a bad man but only a simpleton; those were his 
words. So that if my friend R. was my Uncle Josef, what I was 
meaning to say was that R. was a simpleton. Hardly credible 
and most disagreeable! — But there was the face which I saw in 
the dream with its elongated features and yellow beard. My 
uncle did in fact have a face like that, elongated and framed in 
a handsome fair beard. My friend R. had originally been 
extremely dark; but when black-haired people begin to turn 
grey they pay for the splendour of their youth. Hair by hair, 
their black beards go through an unpleasing change of colour; 
first they turn to a reddish brown, then to a yellowish brown, 
and only then to a definite grey. My friend R.’s beard was at 

1 It is astonishing to observe the way in which my memory — my 
waking memory — ^was narrowed at this point, for the purposes of the 
analysis. Actually I have known five of my uncles, and loved and hon- 
oured one of them. But at the moment at which I overcame my resistance 
to interpreting the dream I said to myself that I never had more 
than one uncle — the one that was intended in the dream. 



that time passing through this stage — and so, incidentally, was 
my own, as I had noticed with dissatisfaction. The face that I 
saw in the dream was at once my friend R.’s and my uncle’s. It 
was like one of Galton’s composite photographs. (In order to 
bring out family likenesses, Galton used to photograph several 
faces on the same plate [1907, 6 ff. and 221 ff.].) So there could 
be no doubt that I really did mean that my friend R. was a 
simpleton — ^like my Uncle Josef. 

I still had no idea at all what could be the purpose of this 
comparison, against which I continued to struggle. It did not 
go very deep, after all, since my uncle was a criminal, whereas 
my friend R. bore an unblemished character . . . except for 
having been fined for knocking a boy down with his bicycle. 
Could I have had that crime in mind? That would have been 
making fun of the comparison. At this point I remembered 
another conversation which I had had a few days earlier with 
another colleague, N., and, now I came to think of it, upon the 
same subject. I had met N. in the street. He too had been 
recommended for a professorsliip. He had heard of the honour 
that had been paid me and had offered me his congratulations 
on it; but I had unhesitatingly refused to accept them. ‘You arc 
the last person,’ I had said, ‘to make that kind of joke; you 
know what such a recommendation is worth from your own 
experience.’ ‘Who can say?’ he had answered — jokingly, it 
seemed; ‘there was something definite against me. Don’t you 
know that a woman once started legal proceedings against me? 
I needn’t assure you that the case was dismissed. It was a dis- 
graceful attempt at blackmail; and I had the greatest difficulty 
in saving the prosecutrix from being punished. But perhaps they 
may be using this at the Ministry as an excuse for not appoint- 
ing me. But joa have an unblemished character.’ This told me 
who the criminal was, and at the same time showed me how 
the dream was to be interpreted and what its purpose was. My 
Uncle Josef represented my two colleagues who had not been 
appointed to professorships — the one as a simpleton and the 
other as a criminal. I now saw too why they were represented 
in this light. If the appointment of my friends R. and N. had 
been postponed for ‘denominational’ reasons, my own appoint- 
ment was also open to doubt; if, however, I could attribute the 
rejection of my two friends to other reasons, which did not 
apply to me, my hopes would remain untouched. This was the 



procedure adopted by my dream: it made one of them, R., into 
a simpleton and the other, N., into a criminal, whereas 1 was 
neither the one nor the other; thus we no longer had anything 
in common; I could rejoice at my appointment to a professor- 
ship, and I could avoid drawing the distressing conclusion that 
R.’s report of what the high official had said to him must apply 
equally to me. 

But I felt obliged to proceed still further with my interpreta- 
tion of the dream; I felt I had not yet finished dealing with it 
satisfactorily. I was still uneasy over the light-heartedness with 
which I had degraded two of my respected colleagues in order 
to keep open my own path to a professorship. My dissatisfaction 
with my conduct, however, had diminished since I had come 
to realize the worth that was to be attached to expressions in 
dreams. I was prepared to deny through thick and thin that I 
really considered that R. was a simpleton and that I really dis- 
believed N.’s account of the blackmailing affair. Nor did I 
believe that Irma was really made dangerously ill through being 
injected with Otto’s preparation of propyl. In both these cases 
what my dreams had expressed was only my wish that it might 
be so. The assertion in which ray wish was realized sounded less 
absurd in the later dream than in the earlier one; it made 
cleverer use of the actual facts in its construction, like a well- 
designed slander of the kind that makes people feel that ‘there’s 
something in it’. For one of the professors in his own faculty 
had voted against my friend R., and my friend N. had himself 
innocently provided me with the material for my aspersions. 
Nevertheless, I must repeat, the dream seemed to me to stand 
in need of further elucidation. 

I then recalled that there was still a piece of the dream which 
the interpretation had not touched. After the idea had occurred 
to me that R. was my uncle, I had had a warm feeling of 
affection for him in the dream. Where did that feeling belong? 
I had naturally never had any feeling of affection for my Uncle 
Josef. I had been fond of my friend R. and had esteemed him 
for many years; but if I had gone up to him and expressed my 
sentiments in terms approaching the degree of affection I had 
felt in the dream, there could be no doubt that he would have 
been astonished. My affection for him struck me as ungenuine 
and exaggerated — ^like the judgement of his intellectual qualities 
which I had expressed by fusing his personality with my uncle’s, 


though there the exaggeration had been in the opposite direction. 
But a new light began to dawn on me. The affection in the 
dream did not belong to the latent content, to the thoughts that 
lay behind the dream; it stood in contradiction to them and 
was calculated to conceal the true interpretation of the dream. 
And probably that was precisely its raison d'etre. I recalled my 
resistance against embai'king on the interpretation, how long I 
had put it off and how I had declared that the dream was sheer 
nonsense. My psycho-analytic treatments taught me how a 
repudiation of that kind was to be interpreted: it had no value 
as a judgement but was simply an expression of emotion. If my 
little daughter did not want an apple that was offered to her, 
she asserted that the apple tasted sour without having tasted it. 
And if my patients behaved like the child, I knew that they 
were concerned with an idea which they wanted to repress. The 
same was true of my dream. I did not want to interpret it, 
because the interpretation contained something that I was 
struggling against. When I had completed the interpretation I 
learnt what it was that I had been struggling against — namely, 
the assertion that R. was a simpleton. The affection that I felt 
for R. could not be derived from the latent dream-thoughts; but 
no doubt it originated from this struggle of mine. If my dream 
was distorted in this respect from its latent content — and dis- 
torted into its opposite, — ^then the affection that was manifest 
in the dream served the purpose of this distortion. In other 
words, distortion was shown in this case to be deliberate and 
to be a means of dissimulation. My dream thoughts had con- 
tained a slander against R.; and, in order that I might not 
notice this, what appeared in the dream was the opposite, a 
feeling of affection for him. 

It seemed as though this might be a discovery of general 
validity. It is true that, as was shown by the instances quoted in 
Chapter III, there are some dreams which are undisguised 
fulfilments of wishes. But in cases where the wish-fulfilment is 
imrecognizable, where it has been disguised, there must have 
existed some inclination to put up a defence against the wish; 
and owing to this defence the wish was unable to express itself 
except in a distorted shape. I will try to seek a social parallel to 
this internal event in the mind. Where can we find a similar 
distortion of a psychical act in social life? Only where two 
persons are concerned, one of whom possesses a certain degree 



of power which the second is obliged to take into account. In 
such a case the second person will distort his psychical acts or, 
as we might put it, will dissimulate. The politeness which I 
practise every day is to a large extent dissimulation of this kind; 
and when I interpret my dreams for my readers I am obliged 
to adopt similar distortions. The poet complains of the need for 
these distortions in the words: 

Das Beste, was du wissen kannst, 

Darfst du den Buben doch nicht sagen.^ 

A similar difficulty confronts the political writer who has dis- 
agreeable truths to tell to those in authority. If he presents them 
imdisguised, the authorities will suppress his words — after they 
have been spoken, if his pronouncement was an oral one, but 
beforehand, if he had intended to make it in print. A writer 
must beware of the censorship,® and on its account he must 
soften and distort the expression of his opinion. According to the 
strength and sensitiveness of the censorship he finds himself 
compelled either merely to refrain from certain forms of attack, 
or to speak in allusions in place of direct references, or he 
must conceal his objectionable pronouncement beneath some 
apparently innocent disguise: for instance, he may describe a 
dispute between two Mandarins in the Middle Kingdop, when 
the people he really has in mind are officials in his own country. 
The stricter the censorship, the more far-reaching will be the 
disguise and the more ingenious too may be the means employed 
for putting the reader on the scent of the true meaning.® 

^ [Mephistopheles, in Goethe’s Faust, Part I [Scene 4] : ‘After all, the 
best of what you know may not be told to boys.’ — ^These were favourite 
lines of Freud’s. He uses them again on p. 453 below. He had already 
quoted them in letters to Fliess of December 3, 1897 and February 9, 
1898 (Freud, 1950o, Letters 77 and 83); and, towards the end of his life, 
on the occasion of his reception of the Goethe prize in 1930, he applied 
them to Goethe himself. (Freud, 1930«).] 

® [This analogy, which makes its first appearance in this passage in 
connection with dreams, had already been used in connection with 
paranoia at the end of Freud’s second paper on the neuropsychoses of 
defence (18966) and more generjiUy in Section 2 of his chapter on 
psychotherapy in Studies on Hysteria (Breuer and Freud, 1895).] 

“ [Footnote added 1919;] Frau Dr. H. von Hug-Hellmuth (1915) has 
recorded a dream which is perhaps better fitted than any to justify my 
choice of nomenclature. In this example the dream-distortion adopted 
the same methods as the postal censorship for expunging passages which 



The fact that the phenomena of censorship and of dream- 
distortion correspond down to their smallest details justifies us 
in presuming that they are similarly determined. We may there- 

were objectionable to it. The postal censorship makes such passages 
unreadable by blacking them out; the dream censorship replaced them 
by an incomprehensible mumble. 

In order to make the dream intelligible, I must explain that the 
dreamer, a cultivated and highly esteemed lady, was fifty years of age. 
She was the widow of an officer of high rank who had died some twelve 
years previously and was the mother of grown sons, one of whom was in 
the field at the time of the dream. 

Here then is the dream — ^which deals with ‘love services’ in war-time. 
['Liebesdienste' means in the first instance ‘services performed for love’, 
i.e. ‘unremunerated services’; but the term obviously courts another 
interpretation.] ‘The patient went to Garrison Hospital No. 1 and 
informed the sentry at the gate that she must speak to the Chief Medical 
Officer (mentioning a name that was unknown to her) as she wanted to 
volunteer for service at the hospital. She pronounced the word “service” 
in such a way that the N.C.O. at once understood that she meant “love 
service”. Since she was an elderly lady, after some hesitation he allowed 
her to pass. Instead of finding the Chief Medical Officer, however, she 
reached a large and gloomy apartment in which a number of officers 
and army doctors were standing and sitting round a long table. She 
approached a staff surgeon with her request, and he understood her 
meaning after she had said only a few words. The actual wording of her 
speech in the dream was: “I and many other women and girls in Vienna 
are ready to . . .” at this point in the dream her words turned into a 
mumble “. . . for the troops — officers and other ranks without dis- 
tinction.” She could tell from the expressions on the officers’ faces, 
partly embarrassed and partly sly, that everyone had understood her 
meaning correctly. The lady went on: “I’m aware that our decision 
must sound surprising, but we mean it in bitter earnest. No one asks a 
soldier in the field whether he wishes to die or not.” There followed an 
awkward silence of some minutes. The staff surgeon then put his arm 
round her waist and said: “Suppxwe, madam, it actually came to . , . 
(mumble).” She drew away from him, thinking to herself: “He’s likeall 
the rest of them”, and replied: “Good gracious, I’m an old womanand 
I might never come to that. Besides, there’s one condition that must be 
observed: age must be respected. It must never happen that an elderly 
woman . . . (mumble) ... a mere boy. That would be terrible.” “I 
understand perfectly,” replied the staff surgeon. Some of the officers, 
and among Aem one who had been a suitor of hers in her youth, laughed 
out loud. The lady then asked to be taken to the Chief Medical Officer, 
with whom she was acquainted, so that the whole matter could be 
thrashed out; but she found, to her consternation, that she could not 
recall his name. Nevertheless, the staff surgeon, most politely and 
respectfully, showed her the way up to the second floor by a very nar- 
row, iron, spiral staircase, which led directly from the room to the upper 



fore suppose that dreams are given their shape in individual 
human beings by the operation of two psychical forces (or we 
may describe them as currents or systems); and that one of 
these forces constructs the wish which is expressed by the dream, 
while the other exercises a censorship upon this dream-wish and, 
by the use of that censorship, forcibly brings about a distortion 
in the expression of the wish. It remains to enquire as to the 
nature of the power enjoyed by this second agency which 
enables it to exercise its censorship. When we bear in mind that 
the latent dream-thoughts are not conscious before an analysis 
has been carried out, whereas the manifest content of the 
dream is consciously remembered, it seems plausible to suppose 
that the privilege enjoyed by the second agency is that of per- 
mitting thoughts to enter consciousness. Nothing, it would 
seem, can reach consciousness from the first system without 
passing the second agency; and the second agency allows no- 
thing to pass without exercising its rights and making such 
modifications as it thinks fit in the thought which is seeking 
admission to consciousness. Incidentally, this enables us to 
form a quite definite view of the ‘essential nature’ of conscious- 
ness: we see the process of a thing becoming conscious as a 
specific psychical act, distinct from and independent of the pro- 
cess of the formation of a presentation or idea; and we regard 
consciousness as a sense organ which perceives data that arise 
elsewhere. It can be demonstrated that these basic assump- 
tions are absolutely indispensable to psychopathology. We 
must, however, postpone our further consideration of them 
to a later stage. [See Chapter VII, particularly Section F, 
p. 610 ff.] 

If this picture of the two psychical agencies and their relation 
to consciousness is accepted, there is a complete analogy in 
political life to the extraordinary affection which I felt in my 
dream for my friend R., who was treated with such contumely 
during the dream’s interpretation. Let us imagine a society in 

storeys of the building. As she went up she heard an officer say: “That’s 
a tremendous decision to make — ^no matter whether a woman’s yoimg 
or old! Splendid of her!” Feeling simply that she was doing her duty, she 
walked up an interminable staircase. — The dream was repeated twice in 
the course of a few weeks, with, as the lady remarked, some quite 
unimportant and meaningless modifications.’ 

[Some further comments on this dream will be foimd in Freud’s Intrv- 
ductoty Lectures (1916-17), Lecture IX.] 



which a struggle is in process between a ruler who is jealous of 
his power and an alert public opinion. The people arc in revolt 
against an unpopular official and demand his dismissal. But the 
autocrat, to show that he need take no heed of the popular 
wish, chooses that moment for bestowing a high distinction 
upon the official, though there is no other reason for doing so. 
In just the same way my second agency, which commands the 
approaches to consciousness, distinguished my friend R. by a 
display of excessive affection simply because the wishful im- 
pulses belonging to the first system, for particular reasons of 
their own on which they were intent at the moment, chose to 
condemn him as a simpleton.^ 

These considerations may lead us to feel that the interpreta- 
tion of dreams may enable us to draw conclusions as to the 
structure of our mental apparatus which we have hoped for in 
vain from philosophy. I do not propose, however, to follow this 
line of thought [which is taken up in Chapter VII] ; but, having 
cleared up the matter of distortion in dreams, I shall go back 
to the problem from which we started. The question raised was 
how dreams with a distressing content can be resolved into 
wish-fulfilments. We now see that this is possible if dream- 
distortion has occurred and if the distressing content serves only 
to disguise something that is wished for. Bearing in mind oizr 
assumption of the existence of two psychical agencies, we can 

1 [The analysis of this dream is continued on p. 191 ff. — Footnote 
added 1911:] Hypocritical dreams of this description are not uncommon 
events in my own case or in that of other people. [They are further dis- 
cussed below, p. 471 ff.] While I wtis engaged in working out a certain 
scientific problem, I was troubled for several nights in close succession 
by a somewhat confusing dream which had as its subject a reconciliation 
with a friend whom I had dropped many years before. On the fourth or 
fifth occasion I at last succeeded in understanding the meaning of the 
dream. It was an incitement to abandon my last remnants of considera- 
tion for the person in question and to free myself from him completely, 
and it had been hypocritically disguised as its opposite. [Cf. p. 477.] I 
have reported elsewhere [19101, reprinted below, p. 398 f. n.] a ‘hypo- 
critical Oedipus dream’, dreamt by a man, in which the hostile impulses 
and death-wishes contained in the dream-thoughts were replaced by 
manifest affection. Another kind of hypocritical dream will be men- 
tioned below in Chapter VI [p. 473 ff.]. [The friend referred to in this 
footnote was evidendy Fliess. Cf. Section IV of Kris’s introduction to 
Freud’s correspondence with Fliess (Freud, 1950a).] 



further say that distressing dreams do in fact contain something 
which is distressing to the second agency, but something which 
at the same time fulfils a wish on the part of the first agency. 
They are wishful dreams in so far as every dream arises from the 
first agency; the relation of the second agency towards dreams 
is of a defensive and not of a creative kind.^ If we were to restrict 
ourselves to considering what the second agency contributes to 
dreams, we could never arrive at an understanding of them; all 
the conundrums which the authorities have observed in dreams 
would remain unsolved. 

The fact that dreams really have a secret meaning which 
represents the fulfilment of a wish must be proved afresh in each 
particular case by analysis. I shall therefore select a few dreams 
with a distressing content and attempt to analyse them. Some 
of them are the dreams of hysterical patients which require 
lengthy preambles and an occasional excursus into the psychical 
processes characteristic of hysteria. But I cannot escape this 
aggravation of the difficulties of presenting my argument. [See 
p. 104.] 

As I have already explained [p. 100 f.], when I undertake the 
analytic treatment of a psycho-neurotic patient his dreams are 
invariably discussed between us. In the course of these discussions 
I am obliged to give him all the psychological explanations 
which have enabled me myself to reach an understanding of 
his symptoms. I am thereupon subjected to a remorseless criti- 
cism, certainly no less severe than I have to expect from the 
members of my own profession. And my patients invariably 
contradict my assertion that all dreams are fulfilments of 
wishes. Here, then, are some instances from the material of 
dreams that have been brought up against me as evidence to 
the contrary. 

‘You’re always saying to me,’ began a clever woman patient 
of mine, ‘that a dream is a fulfilled wish. Well, I’ll tell you a 
dream whose subject was the exact opposite — a dream in which 
one of my wishes was not fulfilled. How do you fit that in with 
your theory? This was the dream; 

^ [Footnote added 1930:] Later jjpp. 476 n. and 557 ff.] we shall also 
come across instances in which, on the contrary, a dream e:q)resses a 
wish on the part of the second agency. 



wanted to give a supper-party, but I had nothing in the house but a 
little smoked salmon. I thought I would go out and buy something, but 
remembered then that it was Sunday afternoon and all the shops would 
be shut. Next I tried to ring up some caterers, but the telephone was out 
of order. So I had to abandon my wish to give a supper-party.’ 

I answered, of course, that analysis was the only way of 
deciding on the meaning of the dream; though I admitted that 
at first sight it seemed sensible and coherent and looked like 
the reverse of a wish-fulfilment. ‘But what material did the 
dream arise from? As you know, the instigation to a dream is 
always to be found in the events of the previous day.’ 

Analysis. — My patient’s husband, an honest and capable 
wholesale butcher, had remarked to her the day before that he 
was getting too stout and therefore intended to start on a course 
of weight-reduction. He proposed to rise early, do physical 
exercises, keep to a strict diet, and above all accept no more 
invitations to supper. — She laughingly added that her husband, 
at the place where he regularly lunched, had made the acquaint- 
ance of a painter, who had pressed him to be allowed to paint 
his portrait, as he had never seen such expressive features. Her 
husband however had replied in his blunt manner that he was 
much obliged, but he was sure the painter would prefer a piece 
of a pretty young girl’s behind to the whole of his face.^ She 
was very much in love with her husband now and teased 
him a lot. She had begged him, too, not to give her any 

I asked her what that meant; and she explained that she had 
wished for a long time that she could have a caviare sandwich 
every morning but had grudged the expense. Of course her 
husband would have let her have it at once if she had asked 
him. But, on the contrary, she had asked him not to give her any 
caviare, so that she could go on teasing him about it. 

This explanation struck me as unconvincing. Inadequate 
reasons like this usually conceal unconfessed motives. They 

* Cf. the phrase ‘sitting for one’s portrait’ and Goethe’s lines; 

Und wenn er keinen Hintem hat, 

Wie mag der Edle sitzen? 

[And if he hasn’t a behind, 

KSSJ, O’i How can his Lordship sit? 

^ (From ‘TotaUtat’, 1814-lS.)]. : 



remind one of Bernheim’s hypnotized patients. When one of 
these carries out a post-hypnotic suggestion and is asked why 
he is acting in this way, instead of saying that he has no idea, 
he feels compelled to invent some obviously unsatisfactory 
reason. The same was no doubt true of my patient and the 
caviare. I saw that she was obliged to create an unfulfilled wish 
for herself in her actual life; and the dream represented this 
renunciation as having been put into effect. But why was it 
that she stood in need of an unfulfilled wish? 

The associations which she had so far produced had not been 
sufficient to interpret the dream. I pressed her for some more. 
After a short pause, such as would correspond to the over- 
coming of a resistance, she went on to tell me that the day 
before she had visited a woman friend of whom she confessed 
she felt jealous because her (my patient’s) husband was con- 
stantly singing her praises. Fortunately this friend of hers is 
very skinny and thin and her husband admires a plumper 
figure. I asked her what she had talked about to her thin 
friend. Naturally, she replied, of that lady’s wish to grow 
a little stouter. Her friend had enquired, too: ‘When are you 
going to ask us to another meal? You always feed one so 

The meaning of the dream was now clear, and I was able to 
say to my patient: ‘It is just as though when she made this 
suggestion you said to yourself: “A likely thing! I’m to ask you 
to come and eat in my house so that you may get stout and 
attract my husband still more! I’d rather never give another 
supper-party.” What the dream was saying to you was that you 
were unable to give any supper-parties, and it was thus ful- 
filling your wish not to help your friend to grow plumper. The 
fact that what people eat at parties makes them stout had been 
brought home to you by your husband’s decision not to accept 
any more invitations to supper in the interests of his plan to 
reduce his weight.’ All that was now lacking was some coin- 
cidence to confirm the solution. The smoked salmon in the 
dream had not yet been accounted for. ‘How,’ I asked, ‘did you 
arrive at the salmon that came into your dream?’ ‘Oh,’ she 
replied, ‘smoked salmon is my fnend’s favourite dish.’ I happen 
to be acquainted with the lady in question myself, and I can 
confirm the fact that she grudges herself salmon no less than 
my patient grudges herself caviare. 



The same dream admits of another and subtler interpreta- 
tion, which in fact becomes unavoidable if we take a subsidiary 
detail into account. (The two interpretations are not mutually 
contradictory, but both cover the same ground; they are a good 
instance of the fact that dreams, like all other psychopatho- 
logical structures, regularly have more than one meaning.) My 
patient, it will be remembered, at the same time as she was 
occupied with her dream of the renunciation of a wish, was 
also trying to bring about a renounced wish (for the caviare 
sandwich) in real life. Her friend had also given expression to a 
wish — to become stouter — and it would not have been surpris- 
ing if my patient had dreamt that her friend’s wish was unful- 
filled; for my patient’s own wish was that her friend’s wish (to 
put on weight) should not be fulfilled. But instead of this she 
dreamt that one of her own wishes was not fulfilled. Thus the 
dream will acquire a new interpretation if we suppose that the 
person indicated in the dream was not herself but her firiend, 
that she had put herself in her friend’s place, or, as we might 
say, that she had ‘identified’ herself with her friend. I believe 
she had in fact done this; and the circumstance of her having 
brought about a renounced wish in real life was evidence of 
this identification. 

What is the meaning of hysterical identification? It requires 
a somewhat lengthy explanation. Identification is a highly im- 
portant factor in the mechanism of hysterical symptoms. It 
enables patients to express in their symptoms not only their 
own experiences but those of a large number of other people; 
it enables them, as it were, to suffer on behalf of a whole crowd 
of people and to act all the parts in a play single-handed. I 
shall be told that this is not more than the familiar hysterical 
imitation, the capacity of hysterics to imitate any symptoms in 
other people that may have struck their attention — sympathy, 
as it were, intensified to the point of reproduction. This, how- 
ever, does no more than show us the path along which the 
psychical process in hysterical imitation proceeds. The path is 
something different from the mental act which proceeds along 
it. The latter is a little more complicated than the common 
picture of hysterical imitation; it consists in the unconscious 
drawing of an inference, as an example will make clear. Sup- 
posing a physician is treating a woman patient, who is subject 
to a particular kind of spasm, in a hospital ward among a 



number of other patients. He will show no surprise if he finds 
one morning that this particular kind of hysterical attack has 
found imitators. He will merely say: ‘The other patients have 
seen it and copied it; it’s a case of psychical infection.’ That is 
true; but the psychical infection has occurred along some such 
lines as these. As a rule, patients know more about one another 
than the doctor does about any of them; and after the doctor’s 
visit is over they turn their attention to one another. Let us 
imagine that this patient had her attack on a particular day; 
then the others will quickly discover that it was caused by a 
letter from home, the revival of some unhappy love-affair, or 
some such thing. Their sympathy is aroused and they draw the 
following inference, though it fails to penetrate into conscious- 
ness: ‘If a cause like this can produce an attack like this, I may 
have the same kind of attack since I have the same grounds for 
having it.’ If this inference were capable of entering conscious- 
ness, it might possibly give rise to 3i fear of having the same kind 
of attack. But in fact the inference is made in a different 
psychical region, and consequently results in the actual realiza- 
tion of the dreaded symptom. Thus identification is not simple 
imitation but assimilation on the basis of a similar aetiological 
pretension; it expresses a resemblance and is derived from a 

X mon element which remains in the unconscious. 

lentification is most frequently used in hysteria to express 
a common sexual element. A hysterical woman identifies herself 
in her symptoms most readily — though not exclusively — with 
people with whom she has had sexual relations or with people 
who have had sexual relations with the same people as herself. 
Linguistic usage takes this into account, for two lovers are 
spoken of as being ‘one’. In hysterical phantasies, just as in 
dreams, it is enough for purposes of identification that the 
subject should have thoughts of sexual relations without their 
having necessarily taken place in reality. Thus the patient 
whose dream I have been discussing was merely following the 
rules of hysterical processes of thought in expressing her jealousy 
of her friend (which incidentally she herself knew was un- 
justified) by taking her place in the dream and identifying 
herself with her by creating a symptom — the renounced wish. 
The process might be expressed verbally thus; my patient put 
herself in her friend’s place in the dream because her friend was 
taking my patient’s place with her husband and because she 



(my patient) wanted to take her friend’s place in her husband’s 
high opinion.^ 

A contradiction to my theory of dreams produced by another 
of my women patients (the cleverest of all my dreamers) was 
resolved more simply, but upon the same pattern; namely that 
the non-fulfilment of one wish meant the fulfilment of another. 
One day I had been explaining to her that dreams are ful- 
filments of wishes. Next day she brought me a dream in which 
she was travelling down with her mother-in-law to the place in 
the country where they were to spend their holidays together. 
Now I knew that she had violently rebelled against the idea of 
spending the summer near her mother-in-law and that a few 
days earlier she had successfully avoided the propinquity she 
dreaded by engaging rooms in a far distant resort. And now her 
dream had undone the solution she had wished for; was not 
this the sharpest possible contradiction of my theory that in 
dreams wishes are fulfilled? No doubt; and it was only necessary 
to follow the dream’s logical consequence in order to arrive at 
its interpretation. The dream showed that I was wrong. Thus 
it was her wish that I might be wrong, and her dream showed that wish 
fulfilled. But her wish that I might be wrong, which was fulfilled 
in connection with her summer holidays, related in fact to 
another and more serious matter. For at about the same time 
I had inferred from the material produced in her analysis that 
at a particular period of her life something must have occurred 
that was of importance in determining her illness. She had 
disputed this, since she had no recollection of it; but soon 
afterwards it had turned out that I was right. Thus her 

1 1 myself regret the insertion into my argument of excerpts from the 
psychopathology of hysteria. [See p. 104.] Their fragmentary presenta- 
tion and detachment from their context cannot fail to detract from their 
enlightening effect. If, however, they serve to indicate the intimate con- 
nection between the topic of dreams and that of the psychoneuroses, 
they will have fulfilled the purpose for which they are inserted. — [This is 
Freud’s first published discussion of identification, though he had 
referred to it earlier, in his correspondence with Fliess (e.g. in Letter 58 
of February 8, 1897, and Manuscript L of May 2, 1897). Though he 
touched upon the subject here and there in later publications, his first 
lengthy consideration of it after the present one was more then twenty 
years later — in Chapter VII of Group Psychology (Freud, 1921c). The dif- 
ferent topic of identification as part of the dream-work is discussed 
below on p. 320 f.] 



wish that I might be wrong, which was transformed into her 
dream of spending her holidays witli her mother-in-law, corre- 
sponded to a well-justified wish that the events of which she 
was then becoming aware for the first time might never have ^ 

I have ventured to interpret — ^without any analysis, but only 
by a guess — a small episode which occurred to a friend of mine 
who was in the same class as I was all through our career at a 
secondary school. One day he listened to a lecture which I 
gave before a small audience on the novel idea that dreams were 
wish-fulfilments. He went home and dreamt that /le had lost all his 
cases (he was a barrister) and afterwards arraigned me on the 
subject. I evaded the issue by telling him that after all one 
can’t win all one’s cases. But to myself I thought; ‘Considering 
that for eight whole years I sat on the front bench as top of the 
class while he drifted about somewhere in the middle, he can 
hardly fail to nourish a wish, left over from his school-days, 
that some day or other / may come a complete cropper.’ 

A dream of a gloomier kind was also brought up against 
me by a patient as an objection to the theory of wishful 

The patient, who was a young girl, began thus; ‘As you will 
remember, my sister has only one boy left now — Karl; she lost 
his elder brother, Otto, while I was still living with her. Otto 
was my favourite; I more or less brought him up. I’m fond of 
the little one too, but of course not nearly so fond as I was of 
the one who died. Last night, then, I dreamt that I saw Karl 
lying before me dead. He was lying in his little coffin with his hands 
folded and with candles all round — in fact just like little Otto, whose 
death was such a blow to me. Now tell me, what can that mean? 
You know me. Am I such a wicked person that I can wish my 
sister to lose the one child she still has? Or does the dream mean 
that I would rather Karl were dead than Otto whom I was so 
much fonder of?’ 

I assured her that this last interpretation was out of the 
question. And after refiecting a little I was able to give her the 
correct interpretation of the dream, which she afterwards con- 
firmed. I was able to do so because I was familiar with the 
whole of the dreamer’s previous history. 



The girl had early been left an orphan and had been brought 
up in the house of a much older sister. Among the friends who 
visited at the house was a man who made a lasting impression 
on her heart. For a time it had seemed as though her scarcely 
acknowledged relations with him would lead to marriage; but 
this happy outcome was brought to nothing by her sister, whose 
motives were never fully explained. After the breach the man 
ceased to visit the house; and shortly after the death of little 
Otto, on to whom she had meanwhile turned her affection, my 
patient herself set up on her own. She did not succeed, however, 
in freeing herself from her attachment to her sister’s friend. Her 
pride bade her avoid him; but she was unable to transfer her 
love to any of the other admirers who presented themselves 
later. Whenever it was announced that the object of her affec- 
tions, who was by profession a literary man, was to give a 
lecture anywhere, she was invariably in the audience; and she 
took every possible opportunity of seeing him from a distance 
on neutral ground. I remembered that she had told me the 
day before that the Professor was going to a particular concert 
and that she intended to go to it as well so as to enjoy a glimpse 
of him once more. That had been on the day before the dream, 
and the concert was to take place on the day on which she told 
me the dream. It was therefore easy for me to construct the 
correct interpretation, and I asked her whether she could think 
of anything that happened after little Otto’s death. She 
answered at once: ‘Of course; the Professor came to see us 
again after a long absence, and I saw him once more beside 
little Otto’s coffin.’ This was exactly what I had expected, and 
I interpreted the dream in this way: ‘If now the other boy were 
to die, the same thing would happen. You would spend the 
day with your sister and the Professor would be certain to come 
to offer his condolences, so that you would see him again under 
the same conditions as the other time. The dream means no 
more than your wish to see him once more, a wish which you 
are inwardly struggling against. I know you have a ticket for 
to-day’s concert in your pocket. Your dream was a dream of 
impatience: it anticipated the glimpse you are to have of him 
to-day by a few hours.’ 

In order to conceal her wish, she had evidently chosen a 
situation in wliich such wishes are usually suppressed, a situa- 
tion in which one is so much filled with grief that one has no 



thought of love. Yet it is quite possible that even in the real 
situation of which the dream was an exact replica, beside the 
coffin of the elder boy whom she had loved still more, she may 
have been unable to suppress her tender feelings for the visitor 
who had been absent so long.^ 

A similar dream of another woman patient had a different 
explanation. When she was young she had been remarkable 
for her ready wit and cheerful disposition; and these character- 
istics were still to be seen, at all events in the ideas that occurred 
to her during the treatment. In the course of a longish dream, 
this lady imagined that she saw her only, fifteen-year-old 
daughter lying dead ‘in a case’. She had half a mind to use the 
scene as an objection to the wish-fulfilment theory, though she 
herself suspected that the detail of the ‘case’ must point the way 
to another view of the dream.* In the course of the analysis she 
recalled that at a party the evening before there had been some 
talk about the English word ‘box’ and the various ways in 
which it could be translated into German — such as ‘Schachtel' 
[‘case’], ‘Loge' [‘box at the theatre’], 'Kasten' [‘chest’], 'Ohrfeige' 
[‘box on the ear’], and so on. Other portions of the same dream 
enabled us to discover further that she had guessed that the 
English ‘box’ was related to the German ^Biichse’ [‘receptacle’], 
and that she had then been plagued by a recollection that 
'Biichse' is used as a vulgar term for the female genitals. If some 
allowance was made for the limits of her knowledge of topo- 
graphical anatomy, it might be presumed, therefore, that the 
child lying in the case meant an embryo in the womb. After 
being enlightened up to this point, she no longer denied that the 
dream-picture corresponded to a wish of hers. Like so many 
young married women, she had been far from pleased when she 
became pregnant; and more than once she had allowed herself 
to wish that the child in her womb might die. Indeed, in a fit of 
rage after a violent scene with her husband, she had beaten with 
her fists on her body so as to hit the child inside it. Thus the dead 
child was in fact the fulfilment of a wish, but of a wish that had 
been put aside fifteen years earlier. It is scarcely to be wondered 

1 [This dream is referred to again on pp. 248 and 463; it is also briefly 
recorded in Section IX of Freud, 1901a (Standard Ed., 5, 675).] 

‘ Like the smoked salmon in the dream of the abandoned supper- 
party. [See above, p. 148.] 


at if a wish that was fulfilled after such a long delay was not 
recognized. Too much had changed in the interval.^ 

I shall have to return to the group of dreams to which the 
last two examples belong (dreams dealing with the death 
of relatives of whom the dreamer is fond) when I come to 
consider ‘typical’ dreams [p. 248 if.J. I shall then be able to 
show from further instances that, in spite of their unwished- 
for contents, all such dreams must be interpreted as wish- 

I owe the following dream, not to a patient, but to an in- 
telligent jurist of my acquaintance. He told it to me, once 
again, in order to restrain me from rash generalizing on the 
theory of wishful dreams. ‘I dreamt,’ said my informant, ‘that 
1 cam up to my house with a lady on my arm. A closed carriage was 
standing in front of it and a man cam up to me, showed me his credentials 
as a police officer and requested m to follow him. I asked him to allow 
m a little time to put my affairs in order. Can you suppose that I 
have a wish to be arrested?’ — Of course not, I could only agree. 
Do you happen to know the charge on which you were arrested? 
— ‘Yes, for infanticide, I believe.’ — Infanticide? But surely 
you’re aware that that’s a crime that can only be committed 
by a mother on a new-born child? — ‘Quite true.’* — And what 
were the circumstances in which you had the dream? What 
happened on the previous evening? — ‘I would prefer not to tell 
you. It’s a delicate matter.’ — Nevertheless I shall have to hear 
it; otherwise we shall have to give up the idea of interpreting 
the dream. — ‘Very well then, listen. I didn’t spend last night 
at home but with a lady who means a great deal to me. When 
we woke up in the morning there was a further passage between 
us, after which I went to sleep again and had the dream I 
described to you.’ — Is she a married woman? — ‘Yes.’ — ^And 
you don’t want to have a child by her? — ‘Oh, no; that might 
give us away.’ — So you don’t practice normal intercourse? — ‘I 
take the precaution of withdrawing before ejaculation.’ — I think 

1 [This dream is further discussed on p. 249 and is also reported 
briefly in Lecture XIII of Freud’s Introductory Lectures (1916-17).] 

* It often happens that the account first given of a dream is incom- 
plete and that the memory of the omitted portions only emerges in the 
course of analysis. These subsequently added portions regularly turn 
out to provide the key to the dream’s interpretation. Gf. the discussion 
below on the forgetting of dreams [p. 518 ff.]. 



I may assume that you had used this device several times 
during the night, and that after repeating it in the morning you 
felt a little uncertain whether you had carried it out success- 
fully. — ‘That’s possible, no doubt.’ — In that case your dream 
was the fulfilment of a wish. It gave you a reassurance that you 
had not procreated a child, or, what amounts to the same thing, 
that you had killed a child. The intermediate links are easily 
indicated. You remember that a few days ago we were talking 
about marriage difficulties and how inconsistent it is that there 
should be no objection to carrying out intercourse in such a 
way that no fertilization takes place, whereas any interference 
when once the ovum and semen have come together and a 
foetus has been formed is punished as a crime. We went on to 
recall the mediaeval controversy over the exact point of time 
at which the soul enters the foetus, since it is not until after that 
that the concept of murder becomes applicable. No doubt, too, 
you know Lenau’s gruesome poem [‘Das tote Gliick’] in which 
child murder and child prevention are equated. — ‘Oddly 
enough I happened to think of Lenau this morning, quite by 
chance, as it seemed.’ — ^An after-echo of your dream. And now 
I can show you another incidental wish-fulfilment contained 
in your dream. You came up to your house with the lady on 
your arm. Thus you were bringing her home,^ instead of 
spending the night in her house as you did in reality. There may 
be more than one reason why the wish-fulfilment which eon- 
stitutes the core of the dream was disguised in such a o r sagrce- 
able form. Perhaps you have learned from my paper on tlie 
aetiology of anxiety neurosis [Freud, 189 '>^] that I regard coitus 
interruptus as one of the aetiological factor,', in the development 
of neurotic anxiety? It would tally with dris if, after carrying 
out sexual intercourse in this way several times, you were left 
in an uneasy mood which afterwards became an element in the 
construction of your dream. Moreover, you made use of this 
moodiness to help disguise the wish-fulffiment. [Cf. p. 487.] 
Incidentally, your reference to infanticide has not been ex- 
plained. How did you come to light on this specifically feminine 
crime? — ‘I must admit that some years ago I became involved 
in an occurrence of that kind. I was responsible for a girl’s 
trying to avoid the consequence of a love-affair with me by 

1 [The German 'hein^hrm' means both ‘to bring home’ and ‘to 
marry’.] ' _ 


means of an abortion. I had nothing to do with her. carrying 
out her intention, but for a long time I naturally felt very 
nervous in case the business came out.’ — I quite understand 
that. This recollection provides a second reason why you must 
have been worried by your suspicion that your device might 
have gone wrong. ^ 

A young physician who heard me describe this dream during 
a course of lectures must have been greatly struck by it, for he 
promptly re-dreamt it, applying the same pattern of thought 
to another theme. The day before, he had sent in his income- 
tax return, which he had filled in perfectly honestly, since he 
had very little to declare. He then had a dream that an acquaint- 
ance of his came to him from a meeting of the tax commissioners and 
informed him that, while no objection had been raised to any of the other 
tax returns, general suspicion had been aroused by his and a heavy fine had 
been imposed on him. The dream was a poorly disguised fulfilment 
of his wish to be known as a doctor with a large income. It 
recalls the well-known story of the girl who was advised not to 
accept a suitor because he had a violent temper and would be 
sure to beat her if they were married. ‘If only he’d begun beat- 
ing me already!’ the girl replied. Her wish to be married was so 
intense that she was ready to take the threatened unpleasantness 
into the bargain, and even went so far as to turn it into a 

The very frequent dreams,* which appear to stand in contra- 
diction to my theory because their subject-matter is the fi*us- 
tration of a wish or the occurrence of something clearly 
unwished-for, may be brought together under the heading of 
‘counter-wish dreams’. If these dreams are considered as a 
whole, it seems to me possible to trace them back to two 
principles; I have not yet mentioned one of these, although it 
plays a large part not only in people’s dreams but in their lives 
as well. One of the two motive forces leading to such dreams is 
the wish that I may be wrong. These dreams appear regularly 
in the course of my treatments when a patient is in a state of 
resistance to me; and I can count almost certainly on provoking 
one of them after I have explained to a patient for the first time 

1 [This dream was recorded in Draft I, attached to Freud’s letter to 
Fliess of May 2, 1897 (Freud, 1950a, Letter 61).] 

“ [This paragraph and the next were added in 1909.] 



my theory that dreams are fulfilments of wishes.^ Indeed, it is 
to be expected that the same thing will happen to some of the 
readers of the present book: they will be quite ready to have one 
of their wishes frustrated in a dream if only their wish that I may 
be wrong can be fulfilled. 

The same point is illustrated by one last dream of the kind 
which I will quote from a patient under treatment. This was 
the dream of a girl who had succeeded in her struggle to con- 
tinue her treatment with me against the will of her relatives 
and of the authorities whose opinions had been consulted. She 
dreamt that her people forbade her to go on coming to me. She then 
reminded me of a promise I had given her that if necessary 1 would 
continue the treatment without a fee. To this I replied: ‘/ cannot make 
any allowances in money matters.' It must be admitted that it was 
not easy to point to the wish-fulfilment in this instance. But in 
all such cases one discovers a second riddle, the solution of 
which helps one to solve the original one. What was the origin 
of the words she put into my mouth? Of course I had said 
nothing of the kind to her; but one of her brothers, and the one 
by whom she was most influenced, had been good enough to 
attribute this sentiment to me. The dream was thus intended 
to prove her brother right. And it was not only in her dreams 
that she insisted on his being right; the same idea dominated 
her whole life and it was the motive of her illness. 

A dream* which seems at first sight to put special difficulties 
in the way of the wish-fulfilment theory was dreamt and inter- 
preted by a physician, and reported by August Starcke (1911): 
T saw upon my left index-finger the first indication [Primdraffekt] of 
^philis on the terminal phalange.' The reflection that, apart from 
the dream’s unwished-for content, it appears to be clear and 
coherent, might dissuade us from analysing it. If, however, we 
are prepared to face the trouble involved, we shall find that 
^Primdraffekt' was equivalent to a ‘prima affectio' (a first love), and 
that the repellent ulcer turned out, to quote Starcke’s words, to 
‘stand for wish-fulfilments that were highly charged with 

, 1 {Footnote added 1911:] During the last few years similar ‘counter- 
wish dreams’ have repeatedly been reported to me by people who have 
heard me lecturing, as a reaction to first making the acquaintance of my 
‘wishful’ theory of dreams. 

* (This paragraph was added in 1914.] 


The second motive for counter- wish dreams* is so obvious 
that it is easy to overlook it, as I did myself for some considerable 
time. There is a masochistic component in the sexual constitu- 
tion of many people, which arises from the reversal of an 
aggressive, sadistic component into its opposite.* Those who 
find their pleasure, not in having physical pain inflicted on 
them, but in humiliation and mental torture, may be described 
as ‘mental masochists’. It will at once be seen that people of 
this kind can have counter-wish dreams and unpleasurable 
dreams, which are none the less wish-fulfilments since they 
satisfy their masochistic inclinations. I will quote one such 
dream, produced by a young man who in his earlier years had 
greatly tormented his elder brother, to whom he had a homo- 
sexual attachment. His character having undergone a funda- 
mental change, he had the following dream, which was in 
three pieces: I. His elder brother was chaffing him. II. Two grown 
men were caressing each other with a homosexual purpose. III. His 
brother had sold the business of which he himself had looked forward to 
becoming the director. He awoke from the last dream with the 
most distressing feelings. Nevertheless it was a masochistic wish- 
ful dream, and might be translated thus: ‘It would serve me 
right if my brother were to confront me with this sale as a 
punishment for all the torments he had to put up with from 

I hope that the foregoing examples will be enough (till the 
next objection is raised) to make it seem plausible that even 
dreams with a distressing content are to be construed as wish- 
fulfilments.* Nor will anyone regard it as a chance coincidence 
that the interpretation of these dreams has brought us up each 
time against topics about which people are loth to speak or to 
think. The distressing feeling aroused by these dreams is no 
doubt identical with the repugnance which tends (usually with 
success) to restrain us from discussing or mentioning such 
topics, and which each of us has to overcome if we nevertheless 

1 [This paragraph was added in 1909.] 

* [The author’s amended views on this subject will be found in 
Freud, 1924c.] 

“ [The following sentence wm included in the text, in a slightly 
different form, in 1919 and printed as a footnote in 1925;] I must point 
out that the subject is not yet finaUy di^osed of; I shall return to it- 
later on. [See p. 556 ff.] 



find ourselves compelled to embark on them. But the unpleasur- 
able feeling which thus recurs in dreams does not dispi'ove the 
existence of a wish. Everyone has wishes that he would prefer 
not to disclose to other people, and wishes that he will not 
admit even to himself. On the other hand, we are justified in 
linkin g the unpleasurable character of all these dreams with 
the fact of dream-distortion. And we are justified in concluding 
that these dreams are distorted and the wish-fulfilment con- 
tained in them disguised to the point of being unrecognizable 
precisely owing to the repugnance felt for the topic of the dream 
or for the wish derived from it and to an intention to repress 
them. The distortion in the dream is thus shown in fact to be an 
act of the censorship. We shall be taking into account every- 
thing that has been brought to light by our analysis of un- 
pleasurable dreams if we make the following modification in 
the formula in which we have sought to express the nature of 
dreams; a dream is a {disguised) fulfilment of a [suppressed or 
repressed) wish.^ 

There remain to be discussed anxiety-dreams as a special 
sub-species of dreams with a distressing content. The notion of 

^ [Footnote added 1914:] A great living writer, who, as I have been told, 
refuses to hear anything of psycho-analysis or the interpretation of 
dreams, has independently arrived at an almost identical formula for 
the nature of dreams. He speaks of a dream as ‘the unauthorized emer- 
gence of suppressed desires and wishes, under false features and name’. 
(Spitteler, 1914, 1.) 

[Added 1911:] I shall anticipate questions which will be discussed later 
by quoting at this point Otto Rank’s enlargement and r-iodification of 
the above basic formula: ‘On the basis and with the help of repressed, 
infantile sexual material, dreams regularly rejjresent present-day, and 
also as a rule erotic, wishes as fulhlled, in a veiled and symbolically dis- 
guised shape.’ (Rank, 1910, [519].) 

[Added 1925;] I have nowhere stated tiiat I adopted Rank’s formula as 
my own. The shorter version, as stated in the text above, seems to me 
adequate. But the mere fact of my having mentioned Rank’s modifica- 
tion has been enough to unleash countless accusations against psycho- 
analysis of having asserted that ‘all dreams have a sexual content’. 

If this sentence is taken in the sense in which it was intended, it merely 
shows the unconscientious manner in which critics are accustomed to 
perform their functions, and the readiness with which opponents over- 
look the dearest statements if they do not give scope to their aggressive 
inclinations. For only a few pages earlier [p. 127 ff.] I had mentioned 
the variety of the wishes whose fulfilments are to be found in children’s 



regarding these as wishful dreams will meet with very little 
sympalliy from the unenlightened. Nevertheless I can deal 
with anxiety-dreams very briefly at this point. They do not 
present us with a new aspect of the dream-problem; what they 
face us with is the whole question of neurotic anxiety. The 
anxiety that we feel in a dream is only apparently explained by 
the dream’s content. If we submit the content of the dream to 
analysis, we find that the anxiety in the dream is no better 
justified by the dream’s content than, let us say, the anxiety 
in a phobia is justified by the idea to which the phobia relates. 
No doubt it is true, for instance, that it is possible to fall out 
of a window and that there is therefore reason for exercising a 
certain degree of caution in the neighbourhood of a window; 
but we cannot see why the anxiety felt in a phobia on this 
subject is so great and pursues the patient far beyond its 
occasion.^ We find then that the same thing may be validly 
asserted both of phobias and of anxiety-dreams; in both cases 
the anxiety is only superficially attached to the idea that 
accompanies it; it originates from another source. 

Since this intimate connection exists between anxiety in 
dreams and in neuroses, in discussing the former I must refer 
to the latter. In a short paper on anxiety-neurosis (Freud, 
1895^), I argued some time ago that neurotic anxiety is derived 
from sexual life and corresponds to libido which has been 
diverted from its purpose and has found no employment.® Since 
dreams (wishes to take part in an excursion or a sail on a lake, or to 
make up for a missed meal, and so on); and in other passages 1 had dis- 
cussed dreams of hunger [p. 131 ».], dreams stimulated by thirst 
[p. 123 f.] or by excretory needs, and dreams of mere convenience 
[p. 125]. Even Rank himself made no absolute assertion. The words he 
used were ‘also as a rule erotic wishes’, and what he said can be amply 
confirmed in the dreams of most adults. 

The situation would be different if ‘sexual’ was being used by my 
critics in the sense in which it is now commonly employed in psycho- 
analysis — in the sense of ‘Eros’. But my opponents are scarcely likely to 
have had in mind the interesting problem of whether all dreams are 
created by ‘libidinal’ instinctual forces as contrasted with ‘destructive’ 
ones. [Cf. Freud, The Ego and the Id, Chapter IV (Freud, 1923i).] 

1 [This particular form of phobia, the fear of falling out of windows, 
was referred to by Freud in a letter to Fliess of December 12, 1896 
(Freud, 1950a, Letter 53), and again much later in his paper on ‘Dreams 
and Telepathy’ (Freud, 1922a).] 

* [The author’s later views on the relation between libido and . 
anxiety will be found in his Irdiibitions, Symptoms and Arucie^ (1926d}.] 

t.D. IV. N 



then this formula has met the test of time; and it enables us 
now to infer from it that anxiety-dreams are dreams with a 
sexual content, the libido belonging to which has been trans- 
formed into anxiety. There will be an opportunity later to 
support this assertion by the analysis of some neurotic patients’ 
dreams.^ In the course, too, of a further attempt to arrive at a 
theory of dreams, I shall have occasion to discuss once more the 
determinants of anxiety-dreams and their compatibility with 
the theory of wish-fulfilment. 

^ [Freud evidently changed his mind on this point: see p. 579 ff., 
where, however, two anxiety-dreams are analysed and the whole sub- 
ject of anxiety-dreams is again discussed.] 



When the analysis of the dream of Irma* s injection showed us 
that a dream could be the fulfilment of a wish, our interest was 
at first wholly absorbed by the question of whether we had come 
upon a universal characteristic of dreams, and for the time being 
we stifled our curiosity about any other scientific problems that 
may have arisen during the work of the interpretation. Having 
followed one path to its end, we may now retrace our steps and 
choose another starting-point for our rambles through the prob- 
lems of dream-life: for the time being, we may leave the topic 
of wish-fulfilment on one side, though we are still far from hav- 
ing exhausted it. 

Now that the application of our procedure for interpreting 
dreams enables us to disclose a latent content in them which is 
of far greater significance than their manifest one, the pressing 
task at once arises of re-examining one by one the various prob- 
lems raised by dreams, to see whether we may not now be in a 
position to find satisfactory solutions for the conundrums and 
contradictions which seemed intractable so long as we were 
only acquainted with the manifest content. 

In the first chapter I have given a detailed account of the 
views of the authorities on the relation of dreams with waking 
life [Section A] and on the origin of the material of dreams 
[Section C]. No doubt, too, my readers will recall the three 
characteristics of memory in dreams [Section B], which have 
been so often remarked on but which have never been explained : 

(1) Dreams show a clear preference for the impressions of the 
immediately preceding days [p. 17 f.]. Cf. Robert [1886, 46], 
Striimpell [1877, 39], Hildebrandt [1875, 11] and Hallam and 
Weed [1896, 410 f.]. 

(2) They make their selection upon different principles fi:om 
our waking memory, since they do not recall what is essential 
and important but what is subsidiary and unnoticed. [P. 18 ff.] 

(3) They have at their disposal the earliest impressions of our 




childhood and even bring up details from that period of our life 
which, once again, strike us as trivial and which in our waking 
state we believe to have been long since forgotten. [P. 15 ff,]^ 

All these peculiarities shown by dreams in their choice of 
material have, of course, only been studied by earlier writers in 
connection with their manifest content. 

^ The view adopted by Robert [1886, 9 f.] that the purpose of 
dreams is to unburden our memory of the useless impressions of daytime 
[cf. p. 79 ff.] is plainly no longer tenable if indifferent memory images 
from our childhood appear at all hrequendy in dreams. Otherwise we 
could only conclude that dreams perform their function most inade- 



If I examine my own experience on the subject of the origin 
of the elements included in the content of dreams, I must begin 
with an assertion that in every dream it is possible to find a 
point of contact with the experiences of the previous day. This 
view is confirmed by every dream that I look into, whether my 
own or anyone else’s. Beariiig this fact in mind, I am able, on 
occasion, to begin a dream’s interpretation by looking for the 
event of the previous day which set it in motion; in many 
instances, indeed, this is the easiest method.^ In the two dreams 
which I have analysed in detail in my last chapters (the dream 
of Irma’s injection and the dream of my uncle with a yellow 
beard) the connection with the previous day is so obvious as to 
require no further comment. But in order to show the regularity 
with which such a connection can be traced, I will go through 
the records of my own dreams and give some instances. I shall 
only quote enough of the dream to indicate the source we are 
looking for; 

(1) / was visiting a house into which I had difficulty in gaining 
admittance . . ./ in the meantime I kept a lady waiting. 

Source: I had had a conversation with a female relative the 
evening before in which I had told her that she would have to 
wait for a purchase she wanted to make till . . . etc. 

(2) I had written a monograph on a certain (indistinct) species 
of plant. 

Source: That morning I had seen a monograph on the 
genus Cyclamen in the window of a book-shop. [See below, 
p. 169 ff.] 

(3) I saw two women in the street, a mother and daughter, the 
latter of whom was a patient of mine. 

Source: One of my patients had explained to me the previous 
evening the difficulties her mother was putting in the way of 
her continuing her treatment. 

^ [The different ways of beginning the interpretation of a dreain are 
discussed in Section I of Freud, 1923c.] 



(4) I took out a subscription in S. and R.'s bookshop for a periodical 
costing TWENTY FLORINS a year. 

Source: My wife had reminded me the day before that I still 
owed her twenty florins for the weekly household expenses. 

(5) I received a communication from the Social Democratic Com- 
mittee, treating me as though I were a member. 

Source: I had received communications simultaneously from the 
Liberal Election Committee and from the Council of the Humani- 
tarian League, of which latter body I was in fact a member. 

(6) A man standing on a cliff in the middle of the sea, in 
the style of Bocklin. 

Source: Dreyfus on the lie du Diable; I had had news at the 
same time from my relatives in England, etc. 

The question may be raised whether the point of contact with 
the dream is invariably the events of the immediately preceding 
day or whether it may go back to impressions derived from a 
rather more extensive period of the most recent past. It is 
unlikely that this question involves any matter of theoretical 
importance; nevertheless I am inclined to decide in favour of 
the exclusiveness of the claims of the day immediately preceding 
the dream — which I shall speak of as the *dream-day’. When- 
ever it has seemed at first that the source of a dream was an 
impression two or three days earlier, closer enquiry has con- 
vinced me that the impression had been recalled on the previous 
day and thus that it was possible to show that a reproduction 
of the impression, occurring on the previous day, could be 
inserted between the day of the original event and the time of 
the dream; moreover it has been possible to indicate the con- 
tingency on the previous day which may have led to the recall- 
ing of the older impression. 

On the other hand^ I do not feel convinced that there is any 
regular interval of biological significance between the instigat- 
ing daytime impression and its recurrence in the dream. 
(Swoboda, 1904, has mentioned an initial period of eighteen 
hours in this connection.)* 

^ [This paragraph was added in 1909.] 

“ [Footnote added 191 1 :] As I have mentioned in a postscript to my first 
chapter (p. 94 f.), Hermann Swoboda [1904] has made a far-reaching 
application to the mental field of the biological periodic intervals of 23 


and 28 days discovered by Wilhelm Fliess [1906]. He has asserted in 
particular that these periods determine the emergence of the elements 
which appear in dreams. No essential modification in dream-interpreta- 
tion would be involved if this fact were to be established; it would merely 
provide a fresh source of origin of dream-material. I have, however, 
recently made some investigations upon my own dreams, to test how far 
the ‘theory of periodicity’ is applicable to them. For this purpose I chose 
some specially outstanding dream-elements the time of whose appear- 
ance in real life could be determined with certainty. 

I. Dream of October 1st-2nd, 1910 

(Fragment) . . . Somewhere in Italy. Three daughters were showing me some 
small curios, as though we were in an antique shop, and were sitting on my lap. I 
commented on one of the objects-. 'Why, you got that from me', and saw plainly 
before me a small profile relief with die clear-cut features of Savonarola. 

When had I last seen a portrait of Savonarola? My travel-diary 
proved that I had been in Florence on September 4th and 5th. While I 
was there I thought I would show my travelling companion the medal- 
lion bearing the fanatical monk’s features, let into the pavement of the 
Piazza della Signoria, which marks the place where he was burned. I 
pointed it out to him, I believe, on the morning of the 3rd. [Misprinted 
‘5th’ in recent editions.] Between this impression and its reappearance 
in the dream 27 -f- 1 days elapsed — Fliess’s ‘female period*. Unluckily 
for the conclusiveness of this example, however, I must add that on the 
actual ‘dream-day’ I had a visit (for the first time since my return) from 
a capable but gloomy-looking medical colleague of mine whom I had 
many years before nick-named ‘Rabbi Savonarola’. He introduced a 
patient to me who was suffering from the effects of an accident to the 
Pontebba express, in which I myself had travelled a week earlier, and 
my thoughts were thus led back to my recent visit to Italy. The appear- 
ance in the content of the dream of the outstanding element ‘Savon- 
arola’ is thus accounted for by my colleague’s visit on the dream-day; 
and the interval of 28 days is deprived of its significance. 

II. Dream of October IOth-IIth, 1910 

I was once more working at chemistiy in the University laboratory. Hofrat L. 
invited me to come somewhere and walked in front of me along the corridor, holding 
a lamp or some other instrument before him in his uplifted hand and with his head 
stretched forward in a peculiar altitude, with a clear-sighted {? far-sighted) look 
about him. Then we crossed an open space. . . (The remainder was forgot- 

The most outstanding point in the content of this dream was the way 
in which Hofrat L. held the lamp (or magnifying glass) before him, with 
his eyes peering into the distance. It was many years since I had last 
seen him; but I knew at once that he was only a substitute figure in the 
place of someone else, someone greater than he — Archimedes, whose 
statue stands near the Fountain of Arethusa at Syracuse in that very 
attitude, holding up his burning-glass and peering out towards the be- 
si^;ing army of the Romans. When did 1 see that statue for the first (and 
last) time? According to my diary it was on the evening of September 


17th; and between then and the time of the dream 13 + 10 = 23 days 
had elapsed — Fliess’s ‘male period’. 

Unfortunately, when we go into the interpretation of this dream in 
greater detail, we once again find that the coincidence loses some of its 
conclusiveness. The exciting cause of the dream was the news I received 
on the dream-day that the clinic, in whose lecture room I was able by 
courtesy to deliver my lectures, was shortly to be removed to another 
locality. I took it for granted that its new situation would be very out of 
the way and told myself that in that case I might just as well not have a 
lecture room at my disposal at all. From that point my thoughts must 
have gone back to the beginning of my career as University Lecturer 
when I in fact had no lecture room and when my efforts to get hold of 
one met with little response from the powerfully placed Hofrats and 
Professors. In those circumstances I had gone to L., who at that time 
held the office of Dean of the Faculty and who I believed was friendlily 
disposed to me, to complain of my troubles. He promised to help me, 
but I heard nothing more from him. In the dream he was Archimedes, 
giving me a noH arai [footing] and himself leading me to the new locality. 
Anyone who is an adept at interpretation will guess that the dream- 
thoughts were not exactly free from ideas of vengeance and self- 
importance. It seems clear, in any case, that without this exciting cause 
Archimedes would scarcely have found his way into my dream that 
night; nor am I convinced that the powerful and still recent impression 
made on me by the statue in Syracuse might not have produced its 
effect after some different intervi of time. 

III. Dream of October 2ni>-3rd, 1910 

(Fragment) . . . Something about Professor Oser, who had drawn up the 
menu for me himself, which had a very soothing effect. . . . (Some more that 
was forgotten.) 

This dream was a reaction to a digestive disturbance that day, which 
made me consider whether I should go to one of my colleagues to have a 
dietary prescribed for me. My reason for choosing Oser for that purpose, 
who had died in the course of the summer, went back to the death of 
another University teacher whom I greatly admired, which had 
occurred shortly before (on October 1st). When had Oser died? and 
when had I heard of his death? According to a paragraph in the papers 
he had died on August 22nd. I had been in Holland at that time and 
had my Vienna newspaper sent on to me regularly; so that I must have 
read of his death on August 24th or 25 th. But here the interval no longer 
corresponds to either period. It amounts to 7 30 -f 2 =39 days or 

possibly 40 days. I could not recall having spoken or thought of Oser in 
the meantime. 

Intervals such as this one, which cannot be fitted into the theory of 
periodicity without further manipulation, occur far more frequently in 
my dreams than intervals which can be so fitted. The only relation which 
I find occurs with regularity is the relation which I have insisted upon 
in the text and which connects the dream with some impression of the 



Havelock Ellis [1911, 224],^ who has also given some atten- 
tion to this point, declares that he was unable to find any such 
periodicity in his dreams in spite of looking for it. He records 
a dream of being in Spain and of wanting to go to a place called 
Daraus, Varaus or Zaraus. On waking he could not recall any 
such place-name, and put the dream on one side. A few months 
later he discovered that Zaraus was in fact the name of a station 
on the line between San Sebastian and Bilbao, through which 
his train had passed 250 days before he had the dream. 

I believe, then, that the instigating agent of every dream is 
to be found among the experiences which one has not yet ‘slept 
on*. Thus the relations of a dream’s content to impressions of 
the most recent past (with the single exception of the day im- 
mediately preceding the night of the dream) differ in no respect 
from its relations to impressions dating from any remoter period. 
Dreams can select their material from any part of the dreamer’s 
life, provided only that there is a train of thought linking the 
experience of the dream-day (the ‘recent’ impressions) with the 
earlier ones. 

But why this preference for recent impressions? We shall form 
some notion on this point, if we submit one of the dreams in the 
series I have just quoted [p. 165] to a fuller analysis. For this 
purpose I shall choose the 

Dream of the Botanical Monograph 

I had written a monograph on a certain plant. The book lay before me 
and I was at the moment turning over a folded coloured plate. Bound up 
in each copy there was a dried specimen of the plant, as though it had 
been taken from a herbarium. 


That morning I had seen a new book in the window of a 
book-shop, bearing the title The Genus Cyclamen — evidently a 
monograph on that plant. 

Cyclamens, I reflected, were my y/ik's favourite flowers and I 
reproached myself for so rarely remembering to bring her flowers, 
which was what she liked. — ^The subject of ‘bringing flowers’ 
recalled an anecdote which I had recently repeated to a circle 
of Mends and which I had used as evidence in favour of my 
^ [This paragraph was added in 1914.] 


theory that forgetting is very often determined by an uncon- 
scious purpose and that it always enables one to deduce the 
secret intentions of the person who forgets.^ A young woman 
was accustomed to receiving a bouquet of flowers from her 
husband on her birthday. One year this token of his affection 
failed to appear, and she burst into tears. Her husband came 
in and had no idea why she was crying till she told him that 
to-day was her birthday. He clasped his hand to his head and 
exclaimed: ‘I’m so sorry, but I’d quite forgotten. I’ll go out at 
once and fetch your flowers.'' But she was not to be consoled; for 
she recognized that her husband’s forgetfulness was a proof that 
she no longer had the same place in his thoughts as she had 
formerly. — This lady, Frau L., had met my wife two days before 
I had the dream, had told her that she was feeling quite well 
and enquired after me. Some years ago she had come to me for 

I now made a firesh start. Once, I recalled, I really had written 
something in the nature of a monograph on a plant, namely a dis- 
sertation on the coca-plant [Freud, 1884e], which had drawn 
Karl Roller’s attention to the anaesthetic properties of cocaine. 
I had myself indicated this application of the alkaloid in my 
published paper, but I had not been thorough enough to pursue 
the matter further.® This reminded me that on the morning of 
the day after the dream — I had not found time to interpret it 
till the evening — I had thought about cocaine in a kind of day- 
dream. If ever I got glaucoma, I had thought, I should travel 
to Berlin and get myself operated on, incognito, in my friend’s 
[Fliess’s] house, by a surgeon recommended by him. The oper- 
ating surgeon, who would have no idea of my identity, would 
boast once again of how easily such operations could be per- 
formed since the introduction of cocaine; and I should not give 
the slightest hint that I myself had had a share in the discovery. 
This phantasy had led on to reflections of how awkward it is, 
when all is said and done, for a physician to ask for medical 
treatment for himself from his professional colleagues. The 
Berlin eye-surgeon would not know me, and I should be able 
to pay his fees like anyone else. It was not until I had recalled 

1 [The theory was published a few months after the date of the dream, 
in Freud (1898i), and then incorporated in The Pgrehopadwlogy of 
Everyday Life (Freud, 19014).] 

’ [See footnote 2, p. 1 1 1.] 



this day-dream that I realized that the recollection of a specific 
event lay behind it. Shortly after Koller’s discovery, my father 
had in fact been attacked by glaucoma; my friend Dr. Konig- 
stein, the ophthalmic surgeon, had operated on him; while Dr. 
Roller had been in charge of the cocaine anaesthesia and had 
commented on the fact that this case had brought together all 
of the three men who had had a share in the introduction of 

My thoughts then went on to the occasion when I had last 
been reminded of this business of the cocaine. It had been a few 
days earlier, when I had been looking at a copy of a Festschrift 
in which grateful pupils had celebrated the jubilee of their 
teacher and laboratory director. Among the laboratory’s claims 
to distinction which were enumerated in this book I had seen 
a mention of the fact that Roller had made his discovery there 
of the anaesthetic properties of cocaine. I then suddenly per- 
ceived that my dream was connected with an event of the 
previous evening. I had walked home precisely with Dr. Konig- 
stein and had got into conversation with him about a matter 
which never fails to excite my feelings whenever it is raised. 
While I was talking to him in the entrance-hall. Professor 
Gartner [Gardener] and his wife had joined us; and I could not 
help congratulating them both on their blooming looks. But 
Professor Gartner was one of the authors of the Festschrift I have 
just mentioned, and may well have reminded me of it. More- 
over, the Frau L., whose disappointment on her birthday I 
described earlier, was mentioned — though only, it is true, in 
another connection — in my conversation with Dr. Konigstein. 

I will make an attempt at interpreting the other determin- 
ants of the content of the dream as well. There was a dried 
specimen of the plant included in the monograph, as though it had 
been a herbarium. This led me to a memory from my secondary 
school. Our headmaster once called together the boys from the 
higher forms and handed over the school’s herbarium to them 
to be looked ihrov /r’l and cleaned. Some small worms — book- 
worms — had found way into it. He does not seem to have 

had much confidence in my helpfulness, for he handed me only 
a few sheets. These, as I could still recall, included some Cruci- 
fers. I never had a specially intimate contact with botany. In 
my preli mi nary examination in botany I was also given a 
Crucifer to identify — and failed to do so. My prospects would 


not have been too bright, if I had not been helped out by my 
theoretical knowledge. I went on from the Cruciferae to the 
Compositae. It occurred to me that artichokes were Com- 
positae, and indeed I might fairly have called them my favourite 
flowers. Being more generous than I am, my wife often brought 
me back these favourite flowers of mine from the market. 

I saw the monograph which I had written lying before me. This 
again led me back to something. I had had a letter from my 
friend [Fliess] in Berlin the day before in which he had shown 
his power of visualization: T am very much occupied with your 
dream-book. I see it lying finished before me and I see myself turning 
over its pages'^ How much I envied him his gift as a seer! If only 
I could have seen it lying finished before me! 

The folded coloured plate. While I was a medical student I was 
the constant victim of an impulse only to learn things out of 
monographs. In spite of my limited means, I succeeded in getting 
hold of a number of volumes of the proceedings of medical 
societies and was enthralled by their coloured plates. I was proud 
of my hankering for thoroughness. When I myself had begun 
to publish papers, I had been obliged to make my own draw- 
ings to illustrate them and I remembered that one of them had 
been so wretched that a friendly colleague had jeered at me 
over it. There followed, I could not quite make out how, a recol- 
lection from very early youth. It had once amused my father to 
hand over a book with coloured plates (an account of a journey 
through Persia) for me and my eldest sister to destroy. Not easy 
to justify from the educational point of view! I had been five 
years old at the time and my sister not yet three; and the picture 
of the two of us blissfully pulling the book to pieces (leaf by leaf, 
like an artichoke, I found myself saying) was almost the only 
plastic memory that I retained from that period of my life. 
Then, when I became a student, I had developed a passion for 
collecting and owning books, which was analogous to my liking 
for learning out of monographs: a favourite hobby. (The idea of 
favourite’ had already appeared in connection with cyclamens 
and artichokes.) I had become a book-worm. I had always, from 
the time I first began to think about myself, referred this first 
passion of mine back to the childhood memory I have men- 

1 [Freud’s reply to this letter from Fliess is dated March 10, 1898 
(Freud, 1950a, Letter 84); so that the dream must have occurred not 
more than a day or two earlier.] 


tioned. Or rather, I had recognized that the childhood scene 
was a ‘screen memory’ for my later bibliophile propensities.^ 
And I had early discovered, of course, that passions often lead 
to sorrow. When I was seventeen I had run up a largish account 
at the bookseller’s and had nothing to meet it with; and my 
father had scarcely taken it as an excuse that my inclinations 
might have chosen a worse oudet. The recollection of this ex- 
perience from the later years of my youth at once brought back 
to my mind the conversation with my friend Dr. Konigstein. 
For in the course of it we had discussed the same question of my 
being blamed for being too much absorbed in my favourite 

For reasons with which we are not concerned, I shall not 
pursue the interpretation of this dream any further, but will 
merely indicate the direction in which it lay. In the course of the 
work of analysis I was reminded of my conversation with Dr. 
Konigstein, and I was brought to it from more than one direc- 
tion. When I take into account the topics touched upon in that 
conversation, the meaning of the dream becomes intelligible to 
me. All the trains of thought starting from the dream — the 
thoughts about my wife’s and my own favourite flowers, about 
cocaine, about the awkwardness of medical treatment among 
colleagues, about my preference for studying monographs and 
about my neglect of certain branches of science such as botany 
— all of these trains of thought, when they were further pur- 
sued, led ultimately to one or other of the many ramifications 
of my conversation with Dr. Konigstein. Once again the dream, 
like the one we first analysed — the dream of Irma’s injection — 
turns out to have been in the nature of a self-justification, a plea 
on behalf of my own rights. Indeed, it carried the subject that 
was raised in the earlier dream a stage further and discussed it 
with reference to fresh material that had arisen in the interval 
between the two dreams. Even the apparently indifferent form 
in which the dream was couched turns out to have had signi- 
ficance. What it meant was: ‘Afier all, I’m' the man who wrote 
the valuable and memorable paper (on cocaine)’, just as in the 
earlier dream I had said on my behalf: ‘I’m a conscientious and 
hard-working student.’ In both cases what I was insisting was: 
‘I may allow myself to do this.’ There is, however, no need for 
me to carry the interpretation of the dream any further,. since 
^ Cf. my paper on screen, memories [Freud, 1899a]. 


my only purpose in reporting it was to illustrate by an example 
the relation between the content of a dream and the experience 
of the previous day which provoked it. So long as I was aware 
only of the dream’s manifest content, it appeared to be related 
only to a single event of the dream-day. But when the analysis 
was carried out, z. second source of the dream emerged in another 
experience of the same day. The first of these two impressions 
with which the dream was connected was an indifferent one, a 
subsidiary circumstance; I had seen a book in a shop- window 
whose title attracted my attention for a moment but whose 
subject-matter could scarcely be of interest to me. The second 
experience had a high degree of psychical importance; I had had 
a good hour’s lively conversation with my friend the eye- 
surgeon; in the course of it I had given him some information 
which was bound to affect both of us closely, and I had had 
memories stirred up in me which had drawn my attention to a 
great variety of internal stresses in my own mind. Moreover, the 
conversation had been interrupted before its conclusion because 
we had been joined by acquaintances. 

We must now ask what was the relation of the two impres- 
sions of the dream-day to each other and to the dream of the 
subsequent night. In the manifest content of the dream only the 
indifferent impression was alluded to, which seems to confirm the 
notion that dreams have a preference for taking up unimportant 
details of waking life. All the strands of the interpretation, on 
the other hand, led to the important impression, to the one which 
had justifiably stirred my feelings. If the sense of the dream is 
judged, as it can only rightly be, by its latent content as revealed 
by the analysis, a new and significant fact is unexpectedly 
brought to light. The conundrum of why dreams are ’oncerned 
only with worthless fragments of waking life seems to have lost 
all its meaning; nor can it any longer be maintained that wak- 
ing life is not pursued further in dreams and that dreams are 
thus psychical activity wasted upon foolish material. The con- 
trary is true; our dream-thoughts are dominated by the same 
material that has occupied us during the day and we only bother 
to dream of things which have given us cause for reflection in 
the daytime. 

Why is it, then, that, though the occasion of my dreaming 
was a daytime impression by which I had been justifiably 
stirred, I nevertheless actually dreamt of something indifferent? 


The most obvious explanation, no doubt, is that we are once 
more faced by one of the phenomena of dream-distortion, which 
in my last chapter I traced to a psychical force acting as a 
censorship. My recollection of the monograph on the genus 
Cyclamen would thus serve the purpose of being an allusion to 
the conversation with my friend, just as the ‘smoked salmon’ in 
the dream of the abandoned supper-party [p. 148 f.] served 
as an allusion to the dreamer’s thought of her woman friend. 
The only question is as to the intermediate links which enabled 
the impression of the monograph to serve as an allusion to the 
conversation with the eye-surgeon, since at first sight there is no 
obvious connection between them. In the example of the aban- 
doned supper-party the connection was given at once: ‘smoked 
salmon’, being the friend’s favourite dish, was an immediate 
constituent of the group of ideas which were likely to be aroused 
in the dreamer’s mind by the personality of her friend. In this 
later example there were two detached impressions which at a 
first glance only had in common the fact of their having occurred 
on the same day: I had caught sight of the monograph in the 
morning and had had the conversation the same evening. The 
analysis enabled us to solve the problem as follows: connections 
of this kind, when they are not pr^ent in the first instance, axe 
woven retrospectively between the ideational content of one 
impression and that of the other. I have already drawn atten- 
tion to the intermediate links in the present case by the words 
I have italicized in my record of the analysis. If there had been 
no influences from another quarter, the idea of the monograph 
on the Cyclamen would only, I imagine, have led to the idea 
of its being my wife’s favourite flower, and possibly also to Frau 
L.’s absent bouquet. I scarcely think that these background 
thoughts would have sufficed to evoke a dream. As we are told 
in Hamlet: 

There needs no ghost, my lord, come from the grave 

To tell us this. 

But, lo and behold, I was reminded in the analysis that the man 
who interrupted our conversation was called Gartner [Gardener] 
and that I had thought his wife looked blooming. And even as 
I write these words I recall that one of my patients, who bore 
the charming name of Flora, was for a time the pivot of our 
discussion. These must have been the intermediate links, arising 



from the botanical group of ideas, which formed the bridge 
between the two experiences of that day, the indifferent and the 
stirring one. A further set of connections was then established 
— those surrounding the idea of cocaine, which had every right 
to serve as a link between the figure of Dr, Konigstein and a 
botanical monograph which I had written," and these connec- 
tions strengthened the fusion between the two groups of ideas 
so that it became possible for a portion of the one experience to 
serve as an allusion to the other one. 

I am prepared to find this explanation attacked on the ground 
of its being arbitrary or artificial. What, it may be asked, would 
have happened if Professor Gartner and his wife with herbloom- 
ing looks had not come up to us or if the patient we were talking 
about had been called Anna instead of Flora? The answer is 
simple. If these chains of thought had been absent others would 
no doubt have been selected. It is easy enough to construct such 
chains, as is shown by the puns and riddles that people make 
every day for their entertainment. The realm of jokes knows no 
boundaries. Or, to go a stage further, if there had been no pos- 
sibility of forging enough intermediate links between the two 
impressions, the dream would simply have been different. 
Another indifferent impression of the same day — for crowds of 
such impressions enter our minds and are then forgotten — 
would have taken the place of the ‘monograph’ in the dream, 
would have linked up with the subject of the conversation 
and would have represented it in the content of the dream. 
Since it was in fact the monograph and not any other idea 
that was chosen to serve this function, we must suppose that it 
was the best adapted for the connection. There is no need for 
us to emulate Lessing’s Hanschen Schlau and feel astonished 
that ‘only the rich people own the most money’.^ 

A psychological process by which, according to our account, 
indifferent experiences take the place of psychically significant 
ones, cannot fail to arouse suspicion and bewilderment. It will 
be our task in a later chapter [Chapter VI, Section B (p. 305 ff.)] 
to make the peculiarities of this apparently irrational operation 
more intelligible. At this point we are only concerned with the 
effects of a process whose reality I have been driven to assume 

^ [From one of Lessing’s SimgedichU (epigrams in verse). A further 
'lengthy discussion of this dream will be found below (p. 282 ff.}.] 



by innumerable and regularly recurrent observations made in 
analysing dreams. What takes place would seem to be some- 
thing in the nature of a ‘displacement’ — of psychical emphasis, 
shall we say? — by means of intermediate links; in this way, ideas 
which originally had only a weak charge of intensity take over 
the charge from ideas which were originally intensely cathccted ^ 
and at last attain enough strength to enable them to force an 
entry into consciousness. Displacements of this kind are no sur- 
prise to us where it is a question of dealing with quantities of 
affect or with motor activities in general. When a lonely old maid 
transfers her affection to animals, or a bachelor becomes an 
enthusiastic collector, when a soldier defends a scrap of coloured 
cloth — a flag — with his life’s blood, when a few seconds’ extra 
pressure in a hand-shake means bliss to a lover, or when, in 
Othello, a lost handkerchief precipitates an outburst of rage — 
all of these are instances of psychical displacements to which we 
raise no objection. But when we hear that a decision as to what 
shall reach our consciousness and what shall be kept out of it — 
what we shall think, in short — has been arrived at in the same 
manner and on the same principles, we have an impression of 
a pathological event and, if such things happen in waking life, 
wc describe them as errors in thought. I will anticipate the 
conclusions to which we shall later be led, and suggest that 
the psychical process which we have found at work in dream- 
displacement, though it cannot be described as a pathological 
disturbance, nevertheless differs from the normal and is to be 
regarded as a process of a more primary nature. [See below. 
Chapter VII, Section E, p. 595 ff.] 

Thus the fact that the content of dreams includes remnants 
of trivial experiences is to be explained as a manifestation of 
dream-distortion (by displacement) ; and it will be recalled that 
we came to the conclusion that dream-distortion was the pro- 
duct of a censorship operating in the passage-way between two 
psychical agencies. It is to be expected that the analysis of a 
dream will regiilarly reveal its true, psychically significant 
source in waking life, though the emphasis has been displaced 
from the recollection of that source on to that of an indifferent 
one. This explanation brings us into complete conflict with 
Robert’s theory [p. 78 ff.], which ceases to be of any service 
to us. For the fact which Robert sets out to explain is a non- 
^ [Charged with psychical energy. See Editor’s Introduction, p. xvii f.] 


existent one. His acceptance of it rests on a misunderstanding, 
on his failure to replace the apparent content of dreams by their 
real meaning. And there is another objection that can be raised 
to Robert’s theory. If it were really the business of dreams to 
relieve our memory of the ‘dregs’ of daytime recollections by a 
special psychical activity, our sleep would be more tormented 
and harder worked than our mental life while we are awake. 
For the number of indifferent impressions from which our 
memory would need to be protected is clearly immensely large: 
the night would not be long enough to cope with such a mass. 
It is far more likely that the process of forgetting indifferent 
impressions goes forward without the active intervention of our 
psychical forces. 

Nevertheless we must not be in a hurry to take leave of 
Robert’s ideas without further consideration. [See p. 579 f.] We 
have still not explained the fact that one of the indifferent im- 
pressions of waking life, one, moreover, dating from the day 
preceding the dream, invariably contributes towards the dream’s 
content. The connections between this impression and the true 
source of the dream in the unconscious are not always there 
ready-made; as we have seen, they may only be established 
retrospectively, in the course of the dream-work,^ with a view, 
as it were, to making the intended displacement feasible. There 
must therefore be some compelling force in the direction of 
establishing connections precisely with a recent, though indiffer- 
ent, impression; and the latter must possess some attribute 
which makes it especially suitable for this purpose. For if that 
were not so, it would be just zis easy for the dream-thoughts to 
displace their emphasis on to an unimportant component in 
their own circle of ideas. 

The following observations may help us towards clearing up 
this point. If in the course of a single day we have two or more 
experiences suitable for provoking a dream, the dream will make 
a combined reference to them as a single whole; it is under a 
necessity to combine them into a unity. Here is an instance. One 
afternoon during the summer I entered a railway compartment 
in which I found two acquaintances who were strangers to each 
other. One of them was an eminent medical colleague and the 
other was a member of a distinguished family with which I had 

^ [This is the first mention of the fundamentally important concept to 
whidi the whole of the sixth and longest chapter of the book is devoted.] 


professional relations. I introduced the two gentlemen to each 
other, but all through the long journey they conducted their 
conversation with me as a go-between, so that I presently found 
myself discussing various topics alternately, first with the one 
and then with the other. I asked my doctor friend to use his 
influence on behalf of a common acquaintance of ours who was 
just starting a medical practice. The doctor replied that he was 
convinced of the young man’s capacity, but that his homely 
appearance would make it hard for him to make his way in 
families of the better class; to which I replied that that was the 
very reason why he needed influential assistance. Turning to 
my other fellow-traveller, I enquired after the health of his aunt 
— the mother of one of my patients — who was lying seriously ill 
at the time. During the night following the journey I had a 
dream that the young friend on whose behalf I had pleaded 
was sitting in a fashionable drawing-room in a select company 
composed of all the distinguished and wealthy people my 
acquaintance and, with the easy bearing of a man of the world, 
was delivering a funeral oration on the old lady (who was 
already dead so far as my dream was concerned), the aunt of 
my second fellow-traveller. (I must confess that I had not been 
on good terms with that lady.) Thus my dream had, once again, 
worked out connections between the two sets of impressions of 
the previous day and had combined them into a single situation. 

Many experiences such as this lead me to assert that the 
dream-work is under some kind of necessity to combine all the 
sources which have acted as stimuli for the dream into a single 
unity in the dream itself.^ 

I will now proceed to the question of whether the instigating 
source of a dream, revealed by analysis, must invariably be a 
recent (and significant) event or whether an internal experi- 

^ The tendency of the dream-work to fuse into a single action all 
events of interest which occur simultaneously has already been remarked 
on by several writers; e.g. Delage (1891, 41) and Delboeuf (1885, 237), 
who speaks oi 'rapprochement force’ [‘enforced convergence’]. [Freud him- 
self had stated this principle in the passage in Studies on Hysteria (Breuer 
and Freud, 1895) quoted in the Editor’s Introduction (p. xv). — ^At this 
point the following sentence was added in 1909 and included in every 
edition up to that of 1922, after which it was omitted: ‘In a later chapter 
(on the dream-work) we shall come across this compelling impulse 
towards combining as an instance of "condensation” — ^another kind of 
primary psychical process.’ (Cf. pp. 228 and 279 ff.)] 


ence, that is, the recollection of a psychically important event — a 
train of thought — , can assume the role of a dream-instigator. 
The answer, based upon a large number of analyses, is most 
definitely in favour of the latter alternative. A dream can be 
instigated by an internal process which has, as it were, become a 
recent event, owing to thought-activity during the previous day. 

This seems to be the appropriate moment for tabulating the 
different conditions to which we find that the sources of dreams 
are subject. The source of a dream may be either — 

(a) a recent and psychically significant experience which is 
represented in the dream directly,^ or 

(b) several recent and significant experiences which are com- 
bined into a single unity by the dream,* or 

(c) one or more recent and significant experiences which are 
represented in the content of the dream by a mention of a con- 
temporary but indifferent experience,® or 

(d) an internal significant experience (e.g. a memory or a 
train of thought), which is in that case invariably represented in 
the dream by a mention of a recent but indifferent impression.* 

It will be seen that in interpreting dreams we find one condi- 
tion always fulfilled; one component of the content of the dream 
is a repetition of a recent impression of the previous day. This 
impression that is to be represented in the dream may either 
itself belong to the circle of ideas surrounding the actual in- 
stigator of the dream — whether as an essential or as a trivial 
portion of it — or it may be derived from the field of an indifferent 
impression which has been brought into connection with the 
ideas surrounding the dream-instigator by more or less numer- 
ous links. The apparent multiplicity of governing conditions is 
in fact merely dependent upon the two alternatives of whether 
a displacement has or has not taken place; and it is worth point- 
ing out that we are enabled by these alternatives to explain the 
range of contrast between different dreams just as easily as the 
medical theory is enabled to do by its hypothesis of brain-cells 
ranging from partial to total wakefulness. (See above, p. 76 ff.) 

It will further be observed, if we consider these four possible 

1 As in the dream of Irma’s injection [p. 106 ff.] and in the dream of 
my uncle with the yellow beard [p. 136 ff.]. 

* As in the young doctor’s funeral oration [p. 178 f.]. 

® As in the dream of the botanical monograph [p. 169 ff.]. 

* Most of my patients’ dreams during analysis are of this kind. 



cases, that a psychical element which is significant but not re- 
cent (e.g. a train of thought or a memory) can be replaced, for 
the purpose of forming a dream, by an element which is recent 
but indifferent, provided only that two conditions are fulfilled: 
(1) the content of the dream must be connected with a recent 
experience, and (2) the instigator of the dream must remain 
a psychieally significant process. Only in one case — case (a) — 
are both of these conditions fulfilled by one and the same im- 
pression. It is to be noticed, moreover, that indifferent impres- 
sions which are capable of being used for eonstructing a dream 
so long as they are recent lose that capacity as soon as they are 
a day (or at the most a few days) older. From this we must con- 
clude that the freshness of an impression gives it some kind of 
psychical value for purposes of dream-construction equivalent 
in some way to the value of emotionally coloured memories or 
trains of thought. The basis of tire value which thus attaches to 
recent impressions in connection with the construction of 
dreams will only become evident in the course of our subse- 
quent psychological discussions.^ 

In this connection it will be noticed, incidentally, that modi- 
fications in our mnemic and ideational material may take place 
during the night unobserved by our consciousness. We are often 
advised that before coming to a final decision on some subject 
we should ‘sleep on it’, and this advice is evidently justified. 
But here we have passed from the psychology of dreams to that 
of sleep, and this is not the last occasion on which we shall be 
tempted to do so.’® 

An objection, however, may be raised which threatens to 
upset these last conclusions. If indifferent impressions can only 

1 See the passage on ‘transference’ in Chapter VII [p. 562 ff.]. 

“ [Footnote added 1919;] An important contribution to the part played 
by recent material in the construction of dreams has been made by Potzl 
(1917) in a paper which carries a wealth of implications. In a series of 
experiments Potzl required the subjects to make a drawing of what they 
had consciously noted of a picture e.xposed to their view in a tachisto- 
scope [an instrument for exposing an object to view for an extremely 
short time]. He then turned his attention to the dreams dreamt by the 
subjects during the following night and required them once more to 
make dratvings of appropriate portions of these dreams. It was shown 
unmistakably that those details of the exposed picture which had not 
been noted by the subject provided material for the construction of the 
dream, whereas those details which had been consciously perceived and 
recorded in the drawing made after the exposure did not recur in the 


find their way into a dream provided they are recent, how does 
it happen that the content of dreams also includes elements 
from an earlier period of life w'hich at the time when they were 
recent possessed, to use Strunipell’s words [1877, 40 f.], no 
psychical value, and should therefore have been long since for- 
gotten — elements, that is to say, which are neither fresh nor 
psychically significant? 

This objection can be completely dealt with by a reference to 
the findings of the psycho-analysis of neurotics. The explanation 
is that the displacement which replaces psychically important 
by indifferent material (alike in dreaming and in thinking) has 
in these cases already taken place at the early period of life in 
question and since then become fixed in the memory. These 
particular elements which were originally indifferent are in- 
different no longer, since taking over (by means of displace- 
ment) the value of psychically significant material. Nothing that 
has really remained indifferent can be reproduced in a dream. 

The reader will rightly conclude from the foregoing argu- 
ments that I am asserting that there are no indifferent dream- 
instigators — and consequently no ‘innocent’ dreams. Those are, 
in the strictest and most absolute sense, my opinions — if I leave 
on one side the dreams of children and perhaps brief reactions 
in dreams to sensations felt during the night. Apart from this, 
what we dream is either manifestly recognizable as psychically 
significant, or it is distorted and cannot be judged till the dream 
has been interpreted, after which it will once more be found to 
be significant. Dreams are never concerned with trivialities; we 
do not allow our sleep to be disturbed by trifles.^ The appar- 

manifest content of the dream. I he material that was taken over by the 
dream-work was modified by it Tor the purposes of dream-construction 
in its familiar ‘arbitrary’ (or, more properly, ‘autocratic’) manner. The 
questions rabed by Potzl’s experiment go far beyond the sphere of 
dream-interpretation eis dealt with in the present volume. In passing, it 
is worth remarking on the contrast between this new method of studying 
the formation of dreams experimentally and the earlier, crude technique 
for introducing into the dream stimuli which interrupted the subject’s 
sleep. [Cf. p. 223 n.] 

^ \FoolnoU added 1914:] Havelock Ellis, a friendly critic of this book, 
writes (1911, 166) : ‘This is the point at which many of us are no longer 
able to follow Freud.’ Havelock Ellis has not, however, carried out any 
analyses of dreams and refuses to believe how impossible it b to base 
one’s judgement on their manifest content. 



ently innocent dreams turn out to be quite the reverse when we 
take the trouble to analyse them. They arc, if I may say so, 
wolves in sheep’s clothing. Since this is another point upon 
which I may expect to be contradicted, and since I am glad of 
an opportunity of showing dream-distortion at work, I will 
select a number of ‘innocent’ dreams from my records and 
submit them to analysis. 


An intelligent and cultivated young woman, reserved and 
undemonstrative in her behaviour, reported as follows: I dreamt 
that I arrived too late at the market and could get nothing either from the 
butcher or from the woman who sells vegetables. An innocent dream, 
no doubt; but dreams are not as simple as that, so I asked to be 
told it in greater detail. She thereupon gave me the following 
account. She dreamt she was going to the market with her cook, who 
was carrying the basket. After she had asked for something, the butcher 
said to her; ‘ That's not obtainable any longer^, and offered her some- 
thing else, adding ‘This is good too'. She rejected it and went on to the 
woman who sells vegetables, who tried to get her to buy a peculiar 
vegetable that was tied up in bundles but was of a black colour. She said: 
T don't recognize that; I won't take it.' 

The dream’s connection with the previous day was quite 
straightforward. She had actually gone to the market too late 
and had got nothing. The situation seemed to shape itself into 
the phrase ‘Die Fleischbank war schon geschlossen' [‘the meat-shop 
was closed’]. I pulled myself up: was not that, or rather its 
opposite, a vulgar description of a certain sort of slovenliness 
in a man’s dress? ^ However, the dreamer herself did not use 
the phrase; she may perhaps have avoided using it. Let us 
endeavour, then, to arrive at an interpretation of the details of 
the dream. 

When anything in a dream has the character of direct speech, 
that is to say, when it is said or heard and not merely thought 
(and it is easy as a rule to make the distinction with certainty), 
then it is derived from something actually spoken in waking 
life — though, to be sure, this something is merely treated as raw 
material and may be cut up and slightly altered and, more 

^ [‘Du hast deme Fleischbank offen' (‘your meat-shop’s open’): Viennese 
slang for ‘your flies are undone’.] 



especially, divorced from its context.^ In carrying out an inter- 
pretation, one method is to start from spoken phrases of this 
kind. What, then, was the origin of the butcher’s remark ‘ That's 
not obtainable any longer'? The answer was that it came from me 
myself. A few days earlier I had explained to the patient that the 
earliest experiences of childhood were ‘not obtainable any longer 
as such’, but were replaced in analysis by ‘transferences’ and 
dreams.® So /was the butcher and she was rejecting these trans- 
ferences into the present of old habits of thinking and feeling. — 
What, again, was the origin of her own remark in the dream T 
don’t recognize that; I won’t take it'? For the purposes of the analysis 
this had to be divided up. T don't recognize that' was something 
she had said the day before to her cook, with whom she had had 
a dispute; but at the time she had gone on: ‘Behave yourself pro- 
perly!’ At this point there had clearly been a displacement. Of 
the two phrases that she had used in the dispute with her cook, 
she had chosen the insignificant one for inclusion in the dream. 
But it was only the suppressed one, ‘Behave yourself properly!’ that 
fitted in with the rest of the content of the dream: those would 
have been the appropriate words to use if someone had ven- 
tured to make improper suggestions and had forgotten ‘to close 
his meat-shop’. The allusions underlying the incident with the 
vegetable-seller were a further confirmation that our interpre- 
tation was on the right track. A vegetable that is sold tied up in 
bundles (lengthways, as the patient added afterwards) and is 
also black, could only be a dream-combination of asparagus 
and black (Spanish) radishes. No knowledgeable person of either 
sex will ask for an interpretation of asparagus. But the other 
vegetable — ‘Schwarzer Retlig' [‘black radish’] — can be taken as 
an exclamation — ‘Schwarzer, reti' dich!' [‘Blacky! Be off"!’] — 

See my discussion of speeches in dreams in my chapter on the 
dream-work [p. 418 ff.]. Only one writer on the subject seems to have 
recognized the source of spoken phrases occurring in dreams, namely 
Delboeuf (1885, 226), who compares them to cliches. [This dream is 
briefly recorded in Section VII of Freud’s short essay On Dreams 
(1901fl)| Standard Ed., 5, 668.] 

® [This passage is referred to in a footnote to a discussion of childhood 
memories in Section V of Freud’s case history of the ‘Wolf Man’ 

’ [It seems probable that this is a reminiscence of a picture puzzle or 
rebus of the kind so common in the pages oiFliegende Blatter &nd similar 
comic papers.] 



and accordingly it too seems to hint at the same sexual topic 
which we suspected at the very beginning, when we felt inclined 
to introduce the phrase about the meat-shop being closed into 
the original account of the dream. We need not enquire now 
into the full meaning of the dream. So much is quite clear: it 
had a meaning and that meaning was far from innocent.^ 


Here is another innocent dream, dreamt by the same patient, 
and in a sense a counterpart to the last one. Her husband asked 
her: 'Don't you think we ought to have the piano tuned?' And she replied: 
‘It's not worth while; the hammers need reconditioning in any case,’ 

Once again this was a repetition of a real event of the previous 
day. Her husband had asked this question and she had made 
some such reply. But what was the explanation of her dreaming 
it? She told me that the piano was a disgusting old box, that it 
made an ugly noise, that it had been in her husband’s possession 
before their marriage,^ and so on. But the key to the solution 
was only given by her words: ‘It's not worth while.' These were 
derived from a visit she had paid the day before to a woman 
friend. She had been invited to take off her jacket, but had 
refused with the words: ‘Thank you, but it's not worth while', I 
can only stop a minute.’ As she was telling me this, I recollected 
that during the previous day’s analysis she had suddenly caught 
hold of her jacket, one of the buttons having come undone. 
Thus it was as though she were saying: ‘Please don’t look; it's 
not worth while.’ In the same way the ‘box’ [‘Kaslen'J was a 

If anyone is curious to know, I may add that the dream concealed 
a phantasy of my behaving in an improper and sexually provocative 
manner, and of the patient putting up a defence against my conduct. If 
this interpretation seems incredible, I need only point to the numerous 
instances in which doctors have charges of the same kind brought against 
them by hysterical women. But in such cases the phantasy emerges into 
consciousness undisguised and in the form of a delusion, instead of being 
distorted and appearing only as a dream . — [Added 1909:] This dream 
occurred at the beginning of the patient’s psycho-analytic treatment. 
It was not until later that I learnt that she had been repeating in it the 
initial trauma from which her neurosis had arisen. I have since then 
come across the same behaviour in other patients; having been exposed 
to a sexual assault in their childhood, they seek, as it were, to bring 
about a repetition of it in their dreams. 

2 This last was a substitute for the opposite idea, as the course of the 
analysis will make clear. 



substitute for a ‘chest’ Brustkasten ''] ; and the interpretation of 
the dream led us back at once to the time of her physical 
development at puberty, when she had begun to be dissatisfied 
by her figure. We can hardly doubt that it led back to still 
earlier times, if we take the word ‘disgusting^ into account and 
the ‘ugly noise', and if we remember how often — both in doubles 
entendres and in dreams — the lesser hemispheres of a woman’s 
body are used, whether as contrasts or as substitutes, for the 
larger ones. 


I will interrupt this series for a moment and insert a short 
innocent dream produced by a young man. He dreamt that he 
was putting on his winter overcoat once more, which was a dreadful 
thing. The ostensible reason for this dream was a sudden return 
of cold weather. If we look more closely, however, we shall 
notice that the two short pieces that make up the dream are 
not in complete harmony. For what could there be ‘dreadful’ 
about putting on a heavy or thick overcoai in cold weather? 
Moreover, the innocence of the dream was decidedly upset by 
the first association that occurred to the dreamer in the analysis. 
He recalled that a lady confided to him the day before that her 
youngest child owed its existence to a torn condom. On that 
basis he was able to reconstruct his thoughts. A thin condom 
was dangerous, but a thick one was bad. The condom was suit- 
ably represented as an overcoat, since one slips into both of 
them. But an occurrence such as the lady described to him 
would certainly be ‘dreadful’ for an unmarried man. 

And now let us return to our innocent lady dreamer. 


She was putting a candle into a candlestick; but the candle broke so 
that it wouldn't stand up properly. The girls at her school said she was 
clumsy; but the mistress said it was not her fault. 

Yet again the occasion for the dream was a real event. The 
day before she had actually put a candle into a candlestick, 
though it did not break. Some transparent symbolism was being 
used in this dream. A candle is an object which can excite the 
female genitals; and, if it is broken, so that it cannot stand up 
properly, it means that the man is impotent. {‘It was not her 
fault.') But could a carefully brought-up young woman, who 



had been screened from the impact of anything ugly, have 
known that a candle might be put to such a use? As it happened, 
she was able to indicate how it was that she obtained this piece 
of knowledge. Once when they were in a rowing boat on the 
Rhine, another boat had passed them with some students in it. 
They were in high spirits and were singing, or rather shouting, 
a song: 

Wenn die Konigin von Schweden, 

Bei geschlossenen Fensterladen 

Mit Apollokerzen . . 

She either failed to hear or did not understand the last word and 
had to get her husband to give her the necessary explanation. 
The verse was replaced in the content of the dream by an 
innocent recollection of some job she had done clumsily when 
she was at school, and the replacement was made possible owing 
to the common tlexntntoi closed shutters. The connection between 
the topics of masturbation and impotence is obvious enough. 
The ‘Apollo’ in the latent content of this dream linked it with 
an earlier one in which the virgin Pallas figured. Altogether far 
from innocent. 


In order that we may not be tempted to draw conclusions too 
easily from dreams as to the dreamer’s actual life, I will add one 
more dream of the same patient’s, which once more has an 
innocent appearance. dreamt’ she said, ‘of what I really did 
yesterday: I filled a small trunk so full of books that I had difficulty in 
shutting it and I dreamt just what really happened.’ In this instance 
the narrator herself laid the chief emphasis on the agreement 
between the dream and reality. [Cf. pp. 21 ». and 372.] All such 
judgements on a dream and comments upon it, though they 
have made themselves a place in waking thought, invariably 
form in fact part of the latent content of the dream, as we shall 
find confirmed by other examples later on [p. 445 ff.]. What 
.we were being told, then, was that what the dream described 
had really happened the day before. It would take up too much 

[‘When the Queen of Sweden, behind closed shutters, . . . with 
Apollo candles.’ ‘Apollo candles’ was the trade name of a familiar 
brand of candles. This is an extract from a well-known students’ song, 
which has iimumerable similar stanzas. The missing word is ‘onamerf 


space to explain how it was that the idea occurred to me of 
making use of the English language in the interpretation. It is 
enough to say that once again what was in question was a little 
‘box’ (cf. the dream of the dead child in the ‘case’, p. 154 f.) 
which was so full that nothing more could get into it. Anyhow 
nothing bad this time. 

In all of these ‘innocent’ dreams the motive for the censorship 
is obviously the sexual factor. This, however, is a subject of 
prime importance which I must leave on one side. 



Like every other writer on the subject, with the exception of 
Robert, I have pointed out as a third peculiarity of the content 
of dreams that it may include impressions which date back to 
earliest childhood, and which seem not to be accessible to 
waking memory. It is naturally hard to determine how rarely 
or how frequently this occurs, since the origin of the dream- 
elements in question is not recognized after waking. Proof that 
what we are dealing with are impressions from childhood must 
therefore be established by external evidence and there is 
seldom an opportunity for doing this. A particularly convinc- 
ing example is that given by Maury [1878, 143 f., quoted on 
p. 16 f. above] of the man who determined one day to revisit 
his old home after an absence of more than twenty years. 
During the night before his departure he dreamt that he was 
in a totally unknown place and there met an unknown man in 
the street and had a conversation with him. When he reached 
his home, he found that the unknown place was a real one in the 
immediate neighbourhood of his native town, and the unknown 
man in the dream turned out to be a friend of his dead father’s 
who was still living there. This was conclusive evidence that he 
had seen both the man and the place in his childhood. This 
dream is also to be interpreted as a dream of impatience like 
that of the girl with the concert-ticket in her pocket (p. 152 f.), 
that of the child whose father had promised to take her on an 
excursion to the Hameau (cf. p. 129 f.), and similar ones. The 
motives which led the dreamers to reproduce one particular 
impression from their childhood rather than any other cannot, 
of course, be discovered without an analysis. 

Someone who attended a course of lectures of mine and 
boasted that his dreams very seldom underwent distortion re- 
ported to me that not long before he had dreamt of seeing his 
former tutor in bed with the nurse who had been with his family till 
his eleventh year. In the dream he had identified the locality 
where the scene occurred. His interest had been aroused and he 
had reported the dream to his elder brother, who had laughingly 




confirmed the truth of what he had dreamt. His brother 
remembered it very well, as he had been six years old at the 
time. The lovers had been in the habit of making the elder boy 
drunk with beer, whenever circumstances were favourable for 
intercourse during the night. The younger boy — the dreamer — , 
who was then three years old and slept in the room with the 
nurse, was not regarded as an impediment. [See also p. 198.] 

There is another way in which it can be established with 
certainty without the assistance of interpretation that a dream 
contains elements from childhood. This is where the dream is of 
what has been called the ‘recurrent’ type: that is to say, where 
a dream was first dreamt in childhood and then constantly 
reappears from time to time during adult sleep. ^ I am able to 
add to the familiar examples of such dreams a few from my 
own records, though I have never myself experienced one. A 
physician in his thirties told me that from the earliest days of 
his childhood to the present time a yellow lion frequently 
appeared in his dreams; he was able to give a minute descrip- 
tion of it. This lion out of his dreams made its appearance one 
day in bodily form, as a china ornament that had long dis- 
appeared. The young man then learnt from his mother that 
this object had been his favourite toy during his early childhood, 
though he himself had forgotten the fact.® 

If we turn now from the manifest content of dreams to the 
dream-thoughts which only analysis uncovers, we find to our 

^ [See above, p. 44 n. Some remarks on ‘recurrent’ drea-ns will be 
found in Freud’s ‘Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria’ (1905«), 
at the end of the synthesis of Dora’s first dream (Section II). Cf. below, 
p. 579 n.] 

“ [The following further dream appeared at this point in the first 
edition (1900) only. A note in Ges. Schriftm, 3 (1925), 38, remarks that 
it was rightly omitted in all subsequent editions; ‘Dreams of this sort are 
of a typical character and correspond not to memories but to phantasies, 
whose meaning it is not hard to guess.’ Here are the cancelled sentences: 
‘One of my women patients dreamt the same dream — ^a scene filled with 
anxiety — ^four or five times during her thirty-eighth year. She was being 
pursued, fled into a room, shut the door, and then opened it again to 
take out the key, which was on the outside of the door. She had a feeling 
that if she failed something frightful would happen. She got hold of the 
key, locked the door from the inside and gave a sigh of relief. I cannot 
say to what age we should assign this little scene, in which, of course, she 
had only played the part of an audience.’] 



astonishment that experiences from childhood also play a part 
in dreams whose content would never have led one to suppose 
it. I owe a particularly agreeable and instructive example of a 
dream of this kind to my respected colleague of the yellow lion. 
After reading Nansen’s narrative of his polar expedition, he had 
a dream of being in a field of ice and of giving the gallant 
explorer galvanic treatment for an attack of sciatica from which 
he was suffering. In the course of analysing the dream, he 
thought of a story dating from his childhood, which alone, 
incidentally, made the dream intelligible. One day, when he 
was a child of three or four, he had heard the grown-ups talk- 
ing of voyages of discovery and had asked his father whether 
that was a serious illness. He had evidently confused ‘ReisetC 
[‘voyages’] with ‘Reissen’ [‘gripes’], and his brothers and sisters 
saw to it that he never forgot this embarrassing mistake. 

There was a similar instance of this when, in the course of 
my analysis of the dream of the monograph on the genus 
Cyclamen [see above p. 172], I stumbled upon the childhood 
memory of my father, when I was a boy of five, giving me a 
book illustrated with coloured plates to destroy. It may perhaps 
be doubted whether this memory really had any share in 
determining the form taken by the content of the dream or 
whether it was not rather that the process of analysis built up 
the connection subsequently. But the copious and intertwined 
associative links warrant our accepting the former alternative: 
cyclamen — favourite flower — ^favourite food — artichokes; pull- 
ing to pieces like an artichoke, leaf by leaf (a phrase constantly 
ringing in our ears in relation to the piecemeal dismember- 
ment of the Chinese Empire) — ^herbarium — book-worms, whose 
favourite food is books. Moreover I can assure my readers that 
the ultimate meaning of the dream, which I have not dis- 
closed, is intimately related to the subject of the childhood 

In the case of another group of dreams, analysis shows us that 
the actual wish which instigated the dream, and the fulfilment 
of which is represented by the dream, is derived from child- 
hood; so that, to our surprise, we find the child and the child's 
impulses still living on in the dream. 

At this point I shall once more take up the interpretation of 
a dream which we have already found instructive — the dream 


of my friend R. being my uncle. [See p. 137 ff.] We have 
follo^ved its interpretation to the point of recognizing clearly as 
one of its motives my wish to be appointed to a professorship; 
and we explained the affection I felt in the dream for my friend 
R. as a product of opposition and revolt against the slanders 
upon my two colleagues which were contained in the dream- 
thoughts. The dream was one of my own; I may therefore con- 
tinue its analysis by saying that my feelings were not yet 
satisfied by the solution that had so far been reached. I knew 
that my waking judgement upon the colleagues who were so 
ill-used in the dream-thoughts would have been a very different 
one; and the force of my wish not to share their fate in the 
matter of the appointment struck me as insufficient to explain 
the contradiction between my waking and dreaming estimates 
of them. If it was indeed true that my craving to be addressed 
with a different title was as strong as all that, it showed a 
pathological ambition which I did not recognize in myself and 
which I believed was alien to me. I could not tell how other 
people who believed they knew me would judge me in this 
respect. It might be that I was really ambitious; but, if so, my 
ambition had long ago been transferred to objects quite other 
than the title and rank of professor exiraordinarius. 

What, then, could have been the origin of the ambitiousness 
which produced the dream in me? At that point I recalled an 
anecdote I had often heard repeated in my childhood. At the 
time of my birth an old peasant-woman had prophesied to my 
proud mother that with her first-born child she had brought a 
great man into the world. Prophecies of this kind must be very 
common; there are so many mothers filled with happy expecta- 
tions and so many old peasant-women and others of the kind 
who make up for the loss of their power to control things in the 
present world by concentrating it on the future. Nor can the 
prophetess have lost anything by her words. Could this have 
been the source of my thirst for grandeur? But that reminded 
me of another experience, dating from my later childhood, 
which provided a still better explanation. My parents had been 
in the habit, when I was a boy of eleven or twelve, of taking me 
with them to the Prater.^ One evening, while we were sitting 
in a restaurant there, our attention had been attracted by a 
man who was moving from one table to another and, for a small 
* [The famous park on the outskirts of Vienna.] 


consideration, improvising a verse upon any topic presented to 
him. I was despatched to bring the poet to our table and he 
showed his gratitude to the messenger. Before enquiring what 
the chosen topic was to be, he had dedicated a few lines to 
myself; and he had been inspired to declare that I should prob- 
ably gro^v up to be a Cabinet Minister. I still remembered quite 
well what an impression this second prophecy had made on me. 
Those were the days of the ‘Burger' Ministry.^ Shortly before, my 
father had brought home portraits of these middle-class profes- 
sional men — ^Herbst, Giskra, Unger, Berger and the rest — ^and 
we had illuminated the house in their honour. There had even 
been some Jews among them. So heneeforlh every industrious 
Jewish schoolboy carried a Cabinet Minister’s portfolio in his 
satchel. The events of that period no doubt had some bearing on 
the fact that up to a time shortly before I entered the University 
it had been my intention to study Law; it was only at the last 
moment that I changed my mind. A ministerial career is 
definitely barred to a medical man. But now to return to my 
dream. It began to dawn on me that my dream had carried 
me back from the dreary present to the cheerful hopes of the 
days of the ‘BUrger' Ministry, and that the wish that it had 
done its best to fulfil was one dating back to those times. In 
mishandling my two learned and eminent colleagues because 
they were Jews, and in treating the one as a simpleton and the 
other zis a criminal, I was behaving as though I were the 
Minister, I had put myself in the Minister’s place. Turning the 
tables on His Excellency with a vengeance! He had refused to 
appoint me professor extraordinarius and I had retaliated in the 
dream by stepping into his shoes.® 

In another instance it became apparent that, though the 
wish which instigated the dream was a present-day one, it had 
received a powerful reinforcement from memories that stretched 
far back into childhood. What I have in mind is a series of 
dreams which are based upon a longing to visit Rome. For a long 
time to come, no doubt, I shall have to continue to satisfy that 

^ (The ‘Middle-class Ministi-y’ — a government of liberal complexion, 
elected after the new Austrian constitution was established in 1867.] 

® [In an amusing letter to Fliess of March 11, 1902 (Freud, 1950a, Let- 
ter 152), Freud tells the story of how he came actually to be appointed 
to a professorship, two years after the publication of this book.] 

I.D. — ^iv. P 


longing in my dreams: for at the season of the year when it is 
possible for me to travel, residence in Rome must be avoided 
for reasons of health.^ For instance, I dreamt once that I was 
looking out of a railway-carriage window at the Tiber and the 
Ponte Sant’ Angelo. The train began to move ofiF, and it 
occurred to me that I had not so much as set foot in the city. 
The view that I had seen in my dream was taken from a well- 
known engraving which I had caught sight of for a moment the 
day before in the sitting-room of one of my patients. Another 
time someone led me to the top of a hill and showed me Rome 
half-shrouded in mist; it was so far away that I was surprised at 
my view of it being so clear. There was more in the content of 
this dream than I feel prepared to detail; but the theme of ‘the 
promised land seen from afar’ was obvious in it. The town 
which I saw in this way for the first time, shrouded in mist, was 
— Liibeck, and the prototype of the hill was — at Gleichenberg.® 
In a third dream I had at last got to Rome, as the dream itself 
informed me; but I was disappointed to find that the scenery 
was far from being of an urban character. There was a narrow 
stream of dark water; on one side of it were black cliffs and on the other 
meadows with big while flowers. I noticed a Herr Z^icker (whom I 
knew slightly) and determined to ask him the way to the city. I was 
clearly making a vain attempt to see in my dream a city which 
I had never seen in my waking life. Breaking up the landscape 
in the dream into its elements, I found that the white flowers 
took me to Ravenna, which I have visited and which, for a time 
at least, superseded Rome as capital of Italy. In the marshes 
round Ravenna we found the loveliest water-lilies growing in 
black water. Because we had had such difficulty in picking them 
out of the water, the dream made them grow in meadows like 
the narcissi at our own Aussee. The dark cliff, so close to the 
water, reminded me vividly of the valley of the Tepl near 
Karlsbad. ‘Karlsbad’ enabled me to explain the curious detail of 
my having asked Herr Zucker the way. The material out of 
which the dream was woven included at this point two of those 
1 [Footnote added 1909:] I discovered long since that it only needs a 
little courage to fulfil wishes which till then have been regarded as 
unattainable; [added 1925:] and thereafter became a constant pilgrim to 
Rome. [The correspondence with Fliess (Freud, 1950fl) gives repeated 
evidence of the emotional importance to Freud of the idea of visiting 
Rome. He first fulfilled this wish in the summer of 1901 (Letter 146).] 
“ [An Austrian spa in Styria, not far from Graz.] 



facetious Jewish anecdotes which contain so much profound and 
often bitter worldly wisdom and wliich we so greatly enjoy quot- 
ing in our talk and letters.^ Here is the first one: the ‘constitution' 
story. An impecunious Jew had stowed himself away without a 
ticket in the fast train to Karlsbad. He was caught, and each time 
tickets were inspected he was taken out of the train and treated 
more and more severely. At one of the stations on his via 
dolorosa he met an acquaintance, who asked him where he was 
travelling to. ‘To Karlsbad,’ was his reply, ‘if my constitution 
can stand it.’ My memory then passed on to another story: of 
a Jew who could not speak French and had been recommended 
when he was in Paris to ask the way to the rue Richelieu. Paris 
itself had for many long years been another goal of my longings; 
and the blissful feelings with which I first set foot on its pave- 
ment seemed to me a guarantee that others of my wishes would 
be fulfilled as well. ‘Asking the way’, moreover, was a direct 
allusion to Rome, since it is well known that all roads lead there. 
Again, the name Z^cker [sugar] was once more an allusion to 
Karlsbad', for we are in the habit of prescribing treatment there 
for anyone suffering from the constitutional complaint of diabetes . * 
The instigation to this dream had been a proposal made by my 
friend in Berlin that we should meet in Prague at Easter. What 
we were going to discuss there would have included something 
with a further connection with ‘sugar’ and ‘diabetes’. 

A fourth dream, which occurred soon after the last one, took 
me to Rome once more. I saw a street-corner before me and was 
surprised to find so many posters in German stuck up there.® I 
had written to my friend with prophetic foresight the day before 
to say that I thought Prague might not be an agreeable place 
for a German to walk about in. Thus the dream expressed at the 
same time a wish to meet him in Rome instead of in a Bohemian 

1 [In a letter to Fliess of June 12, 1897 (Freud, 1950a, Letter 65), 
Freud mentions that he is making a collection of these anecdotes, of 
which he was to make great use in his book on jokes (Freud, 1905c). 
The first of the present anecdotes is alluded to more than once in his 
letters, and Rome and Karlsbad come to be identified as symbols of 
unattainable aims (e.g. in Letters 112 and 130).] 

® [The German word for ‘diabetes’ is 'Zuckerkrankheif (‘sugar- 

® [This dream is discussed in a letter to Fliess of December 3, 1897 
(Freud, 1950a, Letter 77). The meeting in Prague was probably in the 
early part of the same year (see Letter 58, of February 8, 1897).] 


town, and a desire, probably dating back to my student days, 
that the German language might be better tolerated in Prague. 
Incidentally, I must have understood Czech in my earliest 
childhood, for I was born in a small town in Moravia which 
has a Slav population. A Czech nursery rhyme, which I heard 
in my seventeenth year, printed itself on my memory so easily 
that I can repeat it to this day, though I have no notion what 
it means. Thus there was no lack of connections with my early 
childhood in these dreams either. 

It was on my last journey to Italy, which, among other places, 
took me past Lake Trasimene, that finally — after having seen 
the Tiber and sadly turned back when I was only fifty miles 
from Rome — I discovered the way in which my longing for the 
eternal city had been reinforced by impressions from my youth. 
I was in the act of making a plan to by-pass Rome next year 
and travel to Naples, when a sentence occurred to me which I 
must have read in one of our classical authors:^ ‘Which of the 
two, it may be debated, walked up and down his study with 
the greater impatience after he had formed his plan of going to 
Rome — Winckelmann, the Vice-Principal, or Hannibal, the 
Commander-in-Chief?’ I had actually been following in Han- 
nibal’s footsteps. Like him, I had been fated not to see Rome; 
and he too had moved into the Gampagna when everyone had 
expected, him in Rome. But Hannibal, whom I had come to 
resemble in these respects, had been the favourite hero of my 
later school days. Like so many boys of that age, I had sym- 
pathized in the Punic Wars not with the Romans but with the 
Carthaginians. And when in the higher classes I began to under- 
stand for the first time what it meant to belong to an alien race, 
and anti-Semitic feelings among the other boys warned me that 
I must take up a definite position, the figure of the Semitic 
general rose still higher in my esteem. To my youthful mind 
Hannibal and Rome symbolized the conflict between the 
tenacity of Jewry and the organization of the Catholic church. 
And the increasing importance of the effects of the anti-semitic 
movement upon our emotional life helped to fix the thoughts 
and feelings of those early days. Thus the wish to go to Rome 

1 [Footnole added 1925:] The author in question must no doubt have 
been Jean Paul. — [His decision to visit Rome was the turning-point in 
the career of Winckelmann, the eighteenth-century founder of classical 



had become in my dream-life a cloak and symbol for a number 
of other passionate wishes. Their realization was to be pur- 
sued with all the perseverance and single-mindedness of the 
Carthaginian, though their fulfilment seemed at the moment 
just as little favoured by destiny as was Hannibal’s lifelong wish 
to enter Rome, 

At that point I was brought up against the event in my youth 
whose power was still being shown in all these emotions and 
dreams. I may have been ten or twelve years old, when my 
father began to take me with him on his walks and reveal to 
me in his talk his views upon things in the world we live in. 
Thus it was, on one such occasion, that he told me a story to 
show me how much better things were now than they had been 
in his days. ‘When I was a young man’, he said, ‘I went for a 
walk one Saturday in the streets of your birthplace; I was well 
dressed, and had a new fur cap on my head. A Christian came 
up to me and with a single blow knocked off my cap into the 
mud and shouted: “Jew! get off the pavement!” ’ ‘And what 
did you do?’ I asked. ‘I went into the roadway and picked up my 
cap,’ was his quiet reply. This struck me as unheroic conduct 
on the part of the big, strong man who was holding the little 
boy by the hand. I contrasted this situation with another which 
fitted my feelings better: the scene in which Hannibal’s father, 
Hamilcar Barca, ^ made his boy swear before the household 
altar to take vengeance on the Romans. Ever since that time 
Hannibal had had a place in my phantasies. 

I believe I can trace my enthusiasm for the Carthaginian 
general a step further back into my childhood; so that once 
more it would only have been a question of a transference of an 
already formed emotional relation on to a new object. One of 
the first books that I got hold of when I had learnt to read 
was Thiers’ history of the Consulate and Empire. I can still 
remember sticking labels on the flat backs of my wooden 
soldiers with the names of Napoleon’s marshals written on 
them. And at that time my declared favourite was already 
Massena (or to give the name its Jewish form, Manasseh).* (No 

^ \Footnote added 1909:] In the first edition the name of Hasdrubal 
appeared instead: a puzzling mistake, which I have explained in my 
Psychopathology of Everyday Life (19016), Chapter X (2). 

* [Footnote added 1930:] Incidentally, doubts have been thrown cin the 
Marshal’s Jewish origin. 


doubt this preference was also partly to be explained by the 
fact that my birthday fell on the same day as his, exactly a 
hundred years later.) ^ Napoleon himself lines up with Hannibal 
owing to their both having crossed the Alps. It may even be 
that the development of this martial ideal is traceable still 
further back into my childhood: to the times when, at the age 
of three, I was in a close relation, sometimes friendly but some- 
times warlike, with a boy a year older than myself, and to the 
wishes which that relation must have stirred up in the weaker 
of us.® 

The deeper one carries the analysis of a dream, the more 
often one comes upon the track of experiences in childhood 
which have played a part among the sources of that dream’s 
latent content. 

We have already seen (on p. 21) that a dream very seldom 
reproduces recollections in such a way that they constitute, 
without abbreviation or modification, the whole of its manifest 
content. Nevertheless there are some undoubted instances of 
this happening: and I can add a few more, relating, once more, 
to childhood scenes. One of my patients was presented in a 
dream with an almost undistorted reproduction of a sexual 
episode, which was at once recognizable as a true recollection. 
His memory of the event had, in fact, never been completely 
lost in waking life, though it had become greatly obscured, and 
its revival was a consequence of work previously done in 
analysis. At the age of tw'elve, the dreamer had gone to visit a 
school friend who was laid up in bed, when the latter, by 
what was probably an accidental movement, uncovered his 
body. At the sight of his friend’s genitals, my patient had 
been overcome by some sort of compulsion and had uncovered 
himself too and caught hold of the other’s penis. His friend 
looked at him with indignation and astonishment; where- 
upon, overcome by embarrassment, he let go. This scene was 
repeated in a dream twenty-three years later, including all the 
details of his feelings at the time. It was modified, however, to 
this extent, that the dreamer assumed the passive instead of the 
active role, while the figure of his school-friend was replaced by 
someone belonging to his contemporary life. [See also p.^ 189.] 

^ [This sentence was added in 1914.] 

® [A fuller account of this will be found on pp. 424 f. and 483 f.] 



It is true that as a rule the childhood scene is only represented 
in the dream’s manifest content by an allusion, and has to be 
arrived at by an interpretation of the dream. Such instances, 
when they are recorded, cannot carry much conviction, since 
as a rule there is no other evidence of these childhood experi- 
ences having occurred: if they date back to a very early age 
they are no longer recognized as memories. The general justifi- 
cation for inferring the occurrence of these childhood experiences 
from dreams is provided by a whole number of factors in psycho- 
analytic work, which are mutually consistent and thus seem 
sufficiently trustworthy. If I record some of these inferred child- 
hood experiences torn from their context for the purposes of 
dream-interpretation, they may perhaps create little impression, 
especially as I shall not even be able to quote all the material on 
which the interpretations were based. Nevertheless I shall not 
allow this to deter me from relating them. 


All the dreams of one of my women patients were character- 
ized by her being ‘rushed’: she would be in a violent rush to get 
somewhere in time not to miss a train, and so on. In one 
dream she was going to call on a woman friend; her mother told her 
to take a cab and not to walk; but she ran instead and kept on falling 
down. — The material which came up in analysis led to memories 
of rushing about and romping as a child. One particular dream 
recalled the favourite children’s game of saying a sentence 'Die 
Kuh rannte, bis sie fiel’ [‘The cow ran till it fell’] so quickly that 
it sounds as though it were a single [nonsensical] word — 
another rush in fact. All these innocent rushings-about with little 
girl friends were remembered because they took the place of 
other, less innocent ones. 


Here is another woman patient’s dream: She was in a big room 
in which all sorts of machines were standing, like what she imagined an 
orthopaedic institute to be. She was told I had no time and that she must 
have her treatment at the same time as five others. She refused, however, 
and would not lie down in the bed — or whatever it was — that was 
meant for her. She stood in the comer and waited for me to say it wasn't 
true. Meanwhile the others were laughing at her and saying it was just 
her way of 'carrying on'. — Simultaneously, it was as though she was 
making a lot of small squares. 


The first part of the content of this dream related to the 
treatment and was a transference on to me. The second part 
contained an allusion to a scene in childhood. The two parts 
were linked together by the mention of the bed. 

The orthopaedic institute referred back to a remark I had made 
in which I had compared the treatment, alike in its length and 
in its nature, to an orthopaedic one. When I started her treatment 
I had been obliged to tell her that for the time being I had not 
much time for her, though later I should be able to give her a 
whole hour daily. This had stirred up her old sensitiveness, 
which is a principal trait in the character of children inclined 
to hysteria; they are insatiable for love. My patient had been 
the youngest of a family of six children (hence: at the same time 
as five others) and had therefore been her father’s favourite; but 
even so she seems to have felt that her adored father devoted 
too little of his time and attention to her. — Her waiting for me 
to say it wasn't true had the following origin. A young tailor’s 
apprentice had brought her a dress and she had given him the 
money for it. Afterwards she had asked her husband whether 
if the boy lost the money she would have to pay it over again. 
Her husband, to tease her, had said that was so. (The teasing in 
the dream.) She kept on asldng over and over again and waited 
for him to say after all it wasn't true. It was then possible to infer 
that in the latent content of the dream she had had a thought 
of whether she would have to pay me twice as much if I gave 
her twice as much time — a thought which she felt was avaricious 
or filthy. (Uncleanliness in childhood is often replaced in dreams 
by avariciousness for money; the link between the two is the 
word ‘filthy’.^) If the whole passage about waiting for me to say, 
etc., was intended in the dream as a circumlocution for the 
word ‘filthy’, then her 'standing in the corner' and 'not lying down 
in the bed' would fit in with it as constituents of a scene from her 
childhood; a scene in which she had dirtied her bed and been 
punished by being made to stand in the corner, with a threat 
that her father would not love her any more and her brothers 
and sisters would laugh at her, and so on. — The small squares 
related to her little niece, who had shown her the arithmetical 
trick of arranging the digits in nine squares (I believe this is 
correct) so that they add up in all directions to fifteen. 

^ [This point was later enlarged ujjon by Freud ( 1 908i) . But it already 
occurs in a letter to Fliess of December 22, 1897 (Freud, 1950a, Letter 79).] 




A man dreamt as follows: He saw two boys struggling — barrel- 
makei’s boys, to judge by the implements lying around. One of the boys 
threw the other down; the hoy on the ground had ear-rings with blue 
stones. He hurried towards the offender with his stick raised, to chastise 
him. The latter fled for protection to a woman, who was standing by a 
wooden fence, as though she was his mother. She was a woman of the 
working classes and her back was turned to the dreamer. At last she 
turned round and gave him a terrible look so that he ran off in terror. 
The red flesh of the lower lids of her eyes could be seen standing out. 

The dream had made copious use of trivial events of the 
previous day. He had in fact seen two boys in the street, one 
of whom threw the other down. When he hurried up to stop the 
fight they had both taken to their heels. — Barrel-maker's boys. 
This was only explained by a subsequent dream in which he 
used the phrase 'knocking the bottom out of a barrel'. — From his 
experience he believed that ear-rings with blue stones were mostly 
worn by prostitutes. A line from a well-known piece of doggerel 
about two boys then occurred to him: ‘The other boy was called 
Marie’ (i.e. was a girl). — The woman standing. After the scene 
with the two boys he had gone for a walk along the bank of 
the Danube and had profited by the loneliness of the spot to 
micturate against a wooden fence. Further on, a respectably 
dressed elderly lady had smiled at him in a very friendly manner 
and had wanted to give him her visiting-card. Since the woman 
in the dream was standing in the same position as he had been 
in when he was micturating, it must have been a question of a 
micturating woman. This tallies with her terrible look and the 
red flesh standing out, which could only relate to the gaping of the 
genitals caused by stooping. This, seen in his childhood, re- 
appeared in later memory as 'proud flesh' — as a wound. 

The dream combined two opportunities he had had as a 
little boy of seeing little girls’ genitals: when they were thrown 
down and when they were micturating. And from the other part 
of the context it emerged that he had a recollection of being 
chastised or threatened by his father for the sexual curiosity he 
had evinced on these occasions. 


Behind the following dream (dreamt by an elderly lady) 


there lay a whole quantity of childhood memories, combined, 
as best they might be, into a single phantasy. 

She went out in a violent rush to do some commissions. In the 
Graben^ she sank down on her knees, as though she was quite broken- 
down. A large number of people collected round her, especially cab- 
drivers; but no one helped her up. She made several vain attempts, and 
she must at last have succeeded, for she was put into a cab which was 
to take her home. Someone threw a big, heavily-laden basket {like a 
shopping-basket) in through the window after her. 

This was the same lady who always felt ‘rushed’ in her 
dreams, just as she had rushed and romped about when she was 
a child. [See above, p. 199.] The first scene in the dream was 
evidently derived from the sight of a horse fallen down; in the 
same way the word ‘broken-down^ referred to horse-racing. In 
her youth she had ridden horses, and no doubt when she was 
still younger she had actually been a horse. The falling down was 
related to a memory from very early childhood of the seventeen- 
year-old son of the house-porter who had fallen down in the 
street in an epileptic fit and been brought home in a carriage. 
She had of course only heard about this, but the idea of epileptic 
fits (of the ‘falling sickness’) had obtained a hold on her imagina- 
tion and had later influenced the form taken by her own 
hysterical attacks. — If a woman dreams of falling, it almost 
invariably has a sexual sense: she is imagining herself as a 
‘fallen woman'. The present dream in particular scarcely left any 
room for doubt, since the place where my patient fell was the 
Graben, a part of Vienna notorious as a promenade for prosti- 
tutes. The shopping-basket [Korb'] led to more than one inter- 
pretation. It reminded her of the numerous rebuffs \K6rbe)^ 
which she had dealt out to her suitors, as well as of those which 
she complained of having later received herself. This also 
connected with the fact that no one helped her up, which she 
herself explained as a rebuff. The shopping-basket further re- 
minded her of phantasies which had already come up in her 
analysis, in which she was married far beneath her, and had to 
go marketing herself. And lastly it might serve as the mark of a 
servant. At this point further childhood recollections emerged. 
First, of a cook who had been dismissed for stealing, and who 

^ [One of the principal shopping centres in Vienna.] 

” [The word ‘Korb’ (‘basket’) is commonly used for the rejection of an 
offer of marriage.] 



h&A fallen on her knees and begged to be forgiven. She herself had 
been twelve at the time. Then, of a housemaid who had been 
dismissed on account of a love-affair with the family coachman 
(who incidentally married her subsequently) . Thus this memory 
was also one of the sources of the coachmen {driversY in the 
dream (who, in contradistinction to the actual coachman, failed 
to raise the fallen woman). There remained to be explained the 
fact of the basket being thrown in after her and through the window. 
This reminded her of handing in luggage to be sent off by rail, 
of the country custom of lovers climbing in through their sweet- 
hearts’ window, and of other little episodes from her life in the 
country: how a gentleman had thrown some blue plums to a lady 
through, the window of her room, and how her own younger sister 
had been scared by the village idiot looking in through her window. 
An obscure memory from her tenth year then began to emerge, 
of a nurse in the country who had had love-scenes (which the 
girl might have seen something of) with one of the servants in 
the house and who, along with her lover, had been sent off, 
thrown out (the opposite of the dream-image ''thrown in ') — a story 
that we had already approached from several other directions. 
A servant’s luggage or trunk is referred to contemptuously in 
Vienna as ‘seven plums ' : ‘pack up your seven plums and out 
you go!’ 

My records naturally include a large collection of patients’ 
dreams the analysis of which led to obscure or entirely for- 
gotten impressions of childhood, often going back to the first 
three years of life. But it would be unsafe to apply any con- 
clusions drawn from them to dreams in general. The persons 
concerned were in every instance neurotics and in particular 
hysterics; and it is possible that the part played by childhood 
scenes in their dreams might be determined by the nature of 
their neurosis and not by the nature of dreams. Nevertheless, in 
analysing my own dreaqis — and, after all, I am not doing so on 
account of any gross pathological symptoms — it happens no less 
frequently that in the latent content of a dream I come un- 
expectedly upon a scene from childhood, and that all at once 
a whole series of my dreams link up with the associations 
branching out from some experience of my childhood. I have 
already given some instances of this [pp. 193-8], and I shall> 
^ [The German word is the same {Kutscher) in both cases.] 


have others to give in a variety of connections. I cannot, perhaps, 
bring this section to a better close than by reporting one or two 
dreams of mine in which recent occasions and long-forgotten 
experiences of childhood came together as sources of the dream. 


Tired and hungry after a journey, I went to bed, and the 
major vital needs began to announce their presence in my sleep; 
I dreamt as follows; 

I went into a kitchen in search of some pudding. Three women were 
standing in it; one of them was the hostess of the inn and was twisting 
something about in her hand, as though she was making Knodel 
[dumplings']. She answered that 1 must wait till she was ready. (These 
were not definite spoken words.) I felt impatient and went off with 
a sense of injury. I put on an overcoat. But the first I tried on was too 
long for me. I took it off, rather surprised to find it was trimmed with 
fur. A second one that I put on had a long strip with a Turkish design 
let into it. A stranger with a long face and a short pointed beard came 
up and tried to prevent my putting it on, saying it was his. I showed him 
then that it was embroidered all over with a Turkish pattern. He asked; 
‘What have the Turkish {designs, stripes ...) to do with you?’ But we 
then became quite friendly with each other. 

When I began analysing this dream, I thought quite un- 
expectedly of the first novel I ever read (when I was thirteen, 
perhaps); as a matter of fact I began at the end of the first 
volume. I have never known the name of the novel or of its 
author; but I have a vivid memory of its ending. The hero went 
mad and kept calling out the names of the three women who 
had brought the greatest happiness and sorrow into his life. One 
of these names was Pelagie. I still had no notion what this recol- 
lection was going to lead to in the analysis. In connection with 
the three women I thought of the three Fates who spin the 
destiny of man, and I knew that one of the three women — the 
inn-hostess in the dream — was the mother who gives life, and 
furthermore (as in my own case) gives the living creature its 
first nourishment. Love and hunger, I reflected, meet at a 
woman’s breast. A young man who was a great admirer of 
feminine beauty was talking once — so the story went — of the 
good-looking wet-nurse who had suckled him when he was a 
baby: ‘I’m sorry,’ he remarked, ‘that I didn’t make a better use 
of my opportunity.’ I was in the habit of quoting this anecdote 



to explain the factor of ‘deferred action’ in the mechanism of 
the psychoneuroses.* — One of the Fates, then, was rubbing the 
palms of her hands together as though she was making dump- 
lings: a queer occupation for a Fate, and one that cried out for 
an explanation. This was provided by another and earlier 
memory of my childhood. When I was six years old and was 
given my first lessons by my mother, I was expected to believe 
that we were all made of earth and must therefore return to 
earth. This did not suit me and I expressed doubts of the 
doctrine. My mother thereupon rubbed the palms of her hands 
together — just as she did in making dumplings, except that 
there was no dough between them — and showed me the blackish 
scales of epidermis produced by the friction as a proof that we 
were made of earth. My astonishment at this ocular demonstra- 
tion knew no bounds and I acquiesced in the belief which I was 
later to hear expressed in the words: ‘Du hist der Natur einen Tod 
schuldig,’’^ So they really were Fates that I found in the kitchen 
when I went into it — as I had so often done in my childhood 
when I was hungry, while my mother, standing by the fire, had 
admonished me that I must wait till dinner was ready. — And now 
for the dumplings — the Knodell One at least of my teachers at 
the University — and precisely the one to whom I owe my histo- 
logical knowledge (for instance of the epidermis) — would infal- 
libly be reminded by the name Knodl of a person against whom 
he had been obliged to take legal action ior plagiarizing his writ- 
ings. The idea of plagiarizing — of appropriating whatever one 
can, even though it belongs to someone else — clearly led on to 
the second part of the dream, in which I was treated as though 
I were the thief who had for some time carried on his business 
of stealing overcoats in the lecture-rooms. I had written down 
the word ‘plagiarizing’, without thinking about it, because it 

1 [A reference to a superseded theory of the mechanism of hysteria, 
described in the later sections of Part II of Freud’s early ‘Project for a 
Scientific Psychology’ (Freud, 1950a).] 

* [‘Thou owest Nature a death.’ Evidently a reminiscence of Prince 
Hal’s remark to Falstaff in i Henry IV, v. 1 ; ‘Thou owest God a death.’ 
Freud uses the same words and ascribes them to Shakespeare in a letter 
to Fliess of February 6, 1899 (Freud, 1950a, Letter 104).] — Both of the 
emotions that were attached to these childhood scenes — astonishment 
and submission to the inevitable — had occurred in a dream which I had 
had shortly before this one and which had first reminded me of this 
event in my childhood. 


occurred to me; but now I noticed that it could form a bridge 
[Briicke] between different pieces of the dream’s manifest con- 
tent. A chain of associations {Pelagie — -plagiarizing — plagio- 
stomes^ or sharks [Haifische\ — a Jish's swimming-bladder [Fischblasel) 
connected the old novel with the case of Knodl and with the 
overcoats, which clearly referred to implements used in sexual 
technique [see p. 186]. (Cf. Maury’s alliterative dreams [on 
p. 59].) No doubt it was a very far-fetched and senseless chain 
of thought; but I could never have constructed it in waking life 
unless it had already been constructed by the dream-work. And, 
as though the need to set up forced connections regarded 
nothing as sacred, the honoured name of Briicke^ (cf. the verbal 
bridge above) reminded me of the Institute in which I spent the 
happiest hours of my student life, free from all other desires — 

So wird’s Euch an der W eisheit Briisten 
Mit jedem Tage mehr geUisten “ 

— in complete contrast to the desires which were now plaguing 
me in my dreams. Finally there came to mind another much 
respected teacher — his name, Fleischl ['Fleisch' = ‘meat’], like 
Knodl, sounded like something to eat — and a distressing scene 
in which scales of epidermis played a part (my mother and the 
inn-hostess) as well as madness (the novel) and a drug from the 
dispensary* which removes hunger: cocaine. 

I might pursue the intricate trains of thought further along 
these lines and explain fully the part of the dream which I have 
not analysed; but I must desist at this point because the personal 
sacrifice demanded would be too great. I will only pick out one 
thread, which is qualified to lead us straight to one of the 
dream-thoughts underlying the confusion. The stranger with 
the long face and pointed beard who tried to prevent my 
putting on the overcoat bore the features of a shop-keeper at 

* I have deliberately avoided enlarging upon the plagiostomes; they 
reminded me of an unpleasant occasion on which I had disgraced 
myself in connection with this same University teacher. 

* [For Briicke and Fleischl (below) see footnote, p. 482.] 

® [‘Thus, at the breasts of Wisdom clinging, 

Thou’lt find each day a greater rapture bringing.’ 

Goethe, Faust, Part I, [Scene 4] 
(Bayard Taylor’s translation).] 

* [In German ‘lateinische Kilche’ (literally, ‘Latin kitchen’). — Cf. foot- 
note 2, p. 111.] 



Spalato from whom my wife had bought a quantity of Turkish 
stuffs. He was called Popovic, an equivocal name,^ on which a 
humorous writer, Stettenheim, has already made a suggestive 
comment: ‘He told me his name and blushingly pressed my 
hand.’ Once again I found myself misusing a name, as I already 
had done with Pelagie, Knodl, Briicke and Fleischl. It could 
scarcely be denied that playing about with names like this was 
a kind of childish naughtiness. But if I indulged in it, it was as 
an act of retribution; for my own name had been the victim of 
feeble witticisms like these on countless occasions.* Goethe, I 
recalled, had remarked somewhere upon people’s sensitiveness 
about their names: how we seem to have grown into them like 
our skin. He had said this a propos of a line written on his name 
by Herder: 

‘Der du von Gottern abstammst, von Gothen oder vom Kote.’ — 

‘So seid ihr Gotterbilder auch zu Staub.’“ 

I noticed that my digression on the subject of the misuse of 
names was only leading up to this complaint. But I must break 
off here. — My wife’s purchase made at Spalato reminded 
me of another purchase, made at Cattaro,* which I had been 
too cautious over, so that I had lost an opportunity of making 
some nice acquisitions. (Cf. the neglected opportunity with the 
wet-nurse.) F or one of the thoughts which my hunger introduced 
into the dream was this: ‘One should never neglect an oppor- 
tunity, but always take what one can even when it involves 
doing a small wrong. One should never neglect an opportunity, 
since life is short and death inevitable.’ Because this lesson of 
‘carpe dienC had among other meanings a sexual one, and 
because the desire it expressed did not stop short of doing wrong, 
it had reason to dread the censorship and was obliged to conceal 

^ \^Popo' is a childish word for ‘bottom’.] 

* [‘Frearf’ is the German word for ‘joy’.] 

® [The first of these lines comes from a facetious note written by 
Herder to Goethe with a request for the loan of some books; ‘Thou who 
art the offspring of gods or of Goths or of dung — (Goethe, send them to 
me!)’ The second line, a further free association of Freud’s, is taken 
from the well-known recognition scene in Goethe’s IpMgenie oaf Tawris. 
Iphigenia, hearing from Pylades of the death of so many heroes during 
the siege of Troy, exclaims; ‘So you too, divine figures, have turned to 

* [Spalato and Gattaro : both towns on the Dalmatian coast] 


itself behind a dream. All kinds of thoughts having a contrary 
sense then found voice: memories of a time when the dreamer 
was content with spiritual food, restraining thoughts of every 
kind and even threats of the most revolting sexual punishments. 


The next dream calls for a rather long preamble: 

I had driven to the Western Station [in Vienna] to take the 
train for my summer holiday at Aussee, but had arrived on the 
platform while an earlier train, going to Ischl, was still standing 
in the station. There I had seen Count Thun^ who was once 
again travelling to Ischl for an audience with the Emperor, 
Though it was raining, he had arrived in an open carriage. He 
had walked straight in through the entrance for the Local 
Trains. The ticket inspector at the gate had not recognized him 
and had tried to take his ticket, but he had waved the man 
aside with a curt motion of his hand and without giving any 
explanation. After the train for Ischl had gone out, I ought 
by rights to have left the platform again and returned to the 
waiting room; and it had cost me some trouble to arrange 
matters so that I was allowed to stop on the platform. I had 
passed the time in keeping a look-out to see if anyone came 
along and tried to get a reserved compartment by exercising 
some sort of ‘puli’. I had intended in that case to make a loud 
protest: that is to say to claim equal rights. Meantime I had 
been humming a tune to myself which I recognized as Figaro’s 
aria from Le Pfozze di Figaro: 

Se vuol ballare, signor contino, 

Se vuol ballare, signor contino, 

II chitarino le suonero* 

(It is a little doubtful whether anyone else would have recog- 
nized the tune.) 

The whole evening I had been in high spirits and in a 
combative mood. I had chaffed my waiter and my cab-driver 

^ [Austrian politician (1847-1916) of reactionary views; an upholder 
of Bohemian self-government as against the German nationalists; Aus- 
trian premier 1898-9. — Ischl, in Upper Austria, where the Court 
regularly spent the summer months.] 

^ [‘If my Lord Count is inclined to go dancing. 

If my Lord Count is inclined to go dancing. 

I’ll be quite ready to play him a tune . . .’] 



— without, I hope, hurting their feelings. And now all kinds of 
insolent and revolutionary ideas were going through my head, 
in keeping with Figaro’s words and with my recollections of 
Beaumarchais’ comedy which I had seen acted by the Comedie 
frangaise. I thought of the phrase about the great gentlemen who 
had taken the trouble to be born, and of the droit du Seigneur 
which Count Almaviva tried to exercise over Susanna. I 
thought, too, of how our malicious opposition journalists made 
jokes over Count Thun’s name, calling him instead ‘Count 
Nichtsthun’.^ Not that I envied him. He was on his way to a 
difficult audience with the Emperor, while I was the real Count 
Do-nothing — just off on my holidays. There followed all sorts 
of enjoyable plans for the holidays. At this point a gentleman 
came on to the platform whom I recognized as a Government 
invigilator at medical examinations, and who by his activities in 
that capacity had won the flattering nickname of ‘Government 
bedfellow’. He asked to be given a first-class half-compart- 
ment to himself in virtue of Ifis official position, and I heard one 
railwayman saying to another: ‘Where are we to put the gentle- 
man with the half first-class ticket?’® This, I thought to myself, 
was a fine example of privilege; after all I had paid the full 
first-class fare. And I did in fact get a compartment to myself, 
but not in a corridor coach, so that there would be no lavatory 
available during the night. I complained to an official without 
any success; but I got my own back on him by suggesting that 
he should at all events have a hole made in the floor of the 
compartment to meet the possible needs of passengers. And in 
fact I did wake up at a quarter to three in the morning with a 
pressing need to micturate, having had the following dream: 

A crowd of people, a meeting of students. — A count {Thun or 
Taaffe^) was speaking. He was challenged to say something about the 
Germans, and declared with a contemptuous gesture that their favourite 
flower was coifs foot, and put some sort of dilapidated leaf— or rather 

1 [‘Count Do-nothing.’ ‘TkuiC is the German word for ‘to do’.] 

* l^Beischldfer' , literally ‘one who sleeps with someone’ because he used 
to go to sleep instead of invigilating.] 

’ [Being a government official, he had been able to buy his ticket at 

* [Austrian politician (1833-95); premier 1870-1 and 1879-93. Like 
Count Thun, he favoured some degree of indqiendence for the non- 
German parts of the Empire.] 

I.D. — ^rv. Q, 


the crumpled skeleton of a leaf- — into his buttonhole. I fired up — so I 
fired up^ though I was surprised at my taking such an attitude. 

(Then, less distinctly:) It was as though I was in the Aula;^ the 
entrances were cordoned of and we had to escape. I made my way 
through a series of beautifully furnished rooms, evidently ministerial or 
public apartments, with furniture upholstered in a colour between brown 
and violet; at last I came to a corridor, in which a housekeeper was 
sitting, an elderly stout woman. I avoided speaking to her, but she 
evidently thought I had a right to pass, for she asked whether she should 
accompany me with the lamp. I indicated to her, by word or gesture, that 
she was to stop on the staircase; and I felt I was being very cunning in 
thus avoiding inspection at the exit. I got downstairs and found a 
narrow and steep ascending path, along which I went. 

(Becoming indistinct again) . . . It was as though the second 
problem was to get out of the town, just as the first one had been to get 
out of the house. I was driving in a cab and ordered the driver to drive 
me to a station. can’t drive with you along the railway-line itself’, I 
said, after he had raised some objection, as though I had overtired him. 
It was as if I had already driven with him for some of the distance one 
normally travels by train. The stations were cordoned off. I wondered 
whether to go to Krems or fifiaim,^ but reflected that the Coiat would be 
in residence there, so I decided in favour of Graz, or some such place. I 
was now sitting in the compartment, which was like a carriage on the 
Stadtbahn [the suburban railway]; and in rry buttonhole I had a 
peculiar plaited, long-shaped object, and beside it some violet-brown 
violets made of a stiff material. This greatly struck people. (At this 
point the scene broke ofF.) 

Once more I was in front of the station, but this time in the company 
of an elderly gentleman. I thought of a plan for remaining unrecognized; 
and then saw that this plan had already been put into effect. It was as 
though thinking and experiencing were one and the same thing. He 
appeared to be blind, at all events with one eye, and I handed him a 
male glass urinal {which we had to buy or had bought in town). So I 
was a sick-nurse and had to give him the urinal because he was blind. 

^ This repetition crept into my record of the dream, apparently 
through inadvertence. I have let it stand, since the analysis showed that 
it was significant. [The German is ‘ich fahre auf’; ‘fahren’ also means ‘to 
drive’ or ‘to travel’ and is used repeatedly in these senses later in the 
dream. Sec on this point p. 433 «.] 

“ [The great ceremonial hall of the University.] 

® [Krems in Lower Austria and Znaim in Moravia were neither of 
them Imperial residences. — Graz is the capital of the province of Styiia.] 



If the ticket-collector were to see us like that, he would be certain to let 
us get away without noticing us. Here the man's attitude and his mictur- 
ating penis appeared in plastic form. (This was the point at which I 
awoke, feeling a need to micturate.) 

The dream as a whole gives one the impression of being in 
the nature of a phantasy in which the dreamer was carried back 
to the Revolutionary year 1848. Memories of that year had 
been recalled to me by the [Emperor Francis Joseph’s] Jubilee 
in 1898, as well as by a short trip which I had made to the 
Wachau, in the course of which I had visited Emmersdorf,^ the 
place of retirement of the student-leader Fischhof, to whom 
certain elements in the manifest content of the dream may 
allude. My associations then led me to England and to my 
brother’s house there. He used often to tease his wife with the 
words ‘Fifty Years Ago’ (from the title of one of Lord Tennyson’s 
poems),* which his children used then to correct to 'fifteen years 
ago’. This revolutionary phantasy, however, which was derived 
from ideas aroused in me by seeing Count Thun, was like the 
facade of an Italian church in having no organic relation with 
the structure lying behind it. But it differed from those facades 
in being disordered and full of gaps, and in the fact that 
portions of the interior construction had forced their way 
through into it at many points. 

The first situation in the dream was an amalgam of several 
scenes, which I can separate out. The insolent attitude adopted 
by the Count in the dream was copied from a scene at my 
secondary school when I -was fifteen years old. We had hatched 
a conspiracy against an unpopular and ignorant master, the 
moving spirit of which had been one of my school-fellows who 

[The Wachau is a stretch of the Danube valley some fifty miles 
above Vienna . — Footnote added 1925:] This is a mistake, but not a slip 
this time. I only learnt later that the Emmersdorf in the Wachau is 
not to be identified with the place of the same name which was the 
refuge of the revolutionary leader Fischhof. [A reference to this mistake 
will be found in The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (Freud, 19013), 
Chapter X (3).] 

* [No poem by Tennyson seems to bear this title. The reference is 
perhaps to his ode ‘On the Jubilee of Queen Victoria’, in which the 
words ‘fifty years’ (though not ‘fifty years ago’) occur repeatedly. Or, 
alternatively, the allusion may be to the second ‘Locksley Hall’: ‘Sixty 
Years After’.] 


since those days seemed to have taken Henry VIII of England tis 
his model. The leadership in the chief assault was allotted to me, 
and the signal for open revolt was a discussion on the signific- 
ance of the Danube to Austria (cf. the Wachau). One of our 
fellow-conspirators had been the only aristocratic boy in the 
class, who, on account of his remarkable length of limb, was 
called ‘the Giraffe’. He was standing up, like the Count in my 
dream, having been taken to task by the school tyrant, the 
German language master. The favourite flower and the putting into 
his buttonhole of something in the nature of a flower (which last 
made me think of some orchids which I had brought the same 
day for a woman friend and also of a rose of Jericho*) were a 
striking reminder of the scene in one of Shakespeare’s historical 
plays l 3 Henry Vf i, 1] which represented the beginning of the 
Wars of the Red and White Roses. (The mention of Henry VIII 
opened the way to this recollection.) — From there it was only a 
short step to red and white carnations. (Two little couplets, one 
in German and the other in Spanish, slipped into the analysis at 
this point: 

Rosen, Tulpen, Nelken, 

alle Blumen welken. 

Isabelita, no llores, 

que se marchitan las flores.* 

The appearance of a Spanish couplet led back to Figaro.) Here 
in Vienna white carnations had become an emblem of anti- 
semitism, and red ones of the Social Democrats. Behind this lay 
a recollection of a piece of anti-semitic provocation during a 
railway journey in the lovely Saxon countryside (cf. Anglo- 
Saxon) . — The third scene which contributed to the formation of 
the first situation in the dream dated from my early student 
days. There was a discussion in a German students’ club on the 
relation of philosophy to the natural sciences. I was a green 
youngster, full of materialistic theories, and thrust myself for- 
ward to give expression to an extremely one-sided point of 
view. Thereupon someone who was my senior and my superior, 
someone who has since then shown his ability as a leader of 
men and an organizer of large groups (and who also, incident- 

^ [The ‘Resurrection plant’, whose dried fronds unfold under moisture.] 

* [‘Roses, tulips, carnations: every flower fades.’ (Lines often found in 
nineteenth century ‘common-place books’.) — ‘Isabelita, do not weep 
because the flowers fade.’] 



ally, bears a name derived from the Animal Kingdom^), stood 
up and gave us a good talking-to; he too, he told us, had fed 
swine in his youth and returned repentant to his father’s house. 
/ fired up (as I did in the dream) and replied boorishly \^saugrob', 
literally ‘swinishly gross’] that since I now knew that he had fed 
swine in his youth I was no longer surprised at the tone of his 
speeches. (In the dream I was surprised at my German- 
nationalist attitude. [Cf. p. 323.]) There was a general uproar 
and I was called upon from many sides to withdraw my remarks, 
but I refused to do so. The man I had insulted was too sensible 
to look upon the incident as a challenge, and let the affair drop. 

The remaining elements of this first situation in the dream 
were derived from deeper layers. What was the meaning of the 
Count’s pronouncement about colt’s foot? To find the answer, 
I followed a train of associations; colt’s foot \^Hufiattich’, liter- 
ally ‘hoof lettuce’] — lettuce — ^salad — dog-in-the-manger [‘Scdat- 
hund', literally ‘salad dog’]. Here was a whole collection of 
terms of abuse; ‘Gir-aflFe’ [‘Affe' is the German for ‘ape’], 
‘swine’, ‘dog’ — and I could have arrived at ‘donkey’ if I had 
made a detour through another name and insulted yet another 
academic teacher. Moreover, I translated ‘colt’s foot’ — whether 
rightly or wrongly I could not tell — by the French ‘pisse-en-lit*A 
This information was derived from Zola’s Germinal, in which a 
child was told to pick some of that plant for salad. The French 
word for ‘dog’ — 'chien' — reminded me of the major function 
{'chief in French, compared with 'pissef for the minor one). 
Soon, I thought, I should have collected examples of impro- 
priety in all three states of matter — solid, liquid and gaseous; 
— ^for this same book, Germinal, which had plenty to do with the 
approaching revolution, contained an account of a very peculiar 
sort of competition — for the production of a gaseous excretion 
known by the name of 'fiatus'f I now saw that the path leading 
to fiatus had been prepared fiir ahead: from flowers, through the 
Spanish couplet, Isabelita, Isabella and Ferdinand, Henry VUI, 
English history, and the Armada which sailed against England, 

^ [Presumably Viktor Adler (‘eagle’), the Austrian social democrat 
leader (1852-1918). Cf. ‘Adler’ on p. 214 below.] 

= 1‘Pissenlit’ actually means ‘dandelion’.] 

“ Not in fact in Germinal but in La terre: a mistake which I only 
observed after I had completed the analysis. — ^Notice the occurrence 
of the same letters in ‘Hj^ttich’ [‘colt’s foot’] and ‘flatus’. 


after whose defeat a medal was struck, bearing the inscription 
‘Flavit et dissipati sunt’^, since the storm-blast had scattered 
the Spanish fleet. I had thought, half seriously, of using those 
words as the heading to the chapter on ‘Therapy’, if ever I got 
so far as producing a detailed account of my theory and treat- 
ment of hysteria. 

Turning now to the second episode of the dream, I am unable 
to deal with it in such detail — out of consideration for the 
censorship. For I was putting myself in the place of an exalted 
personage of those revolutionary times, who also had an adven- 
ture with an eagle [Adler] and is said to have suffered from 
incontinence of the bowels, and so on. I thought to myself that 
I should not be justified in passing the censorship at this point, even 
though the greater part of the story was told me by a Hofrat 
(a consiliarius aulicus [court councillor] — cf. Aula). The series of 
public rooms in the dream were derived from His Excellency’s 
saloon carriage, of which I had succeeded in getting a glimpse. 
But the ‘rooms’ [Zimmer] also meant ‘women’ [Frauenzimmer] 
as is often the case in dreams® — in this instance ‘public women’. 
In the figure of the housekeeper I was showing my lack of 
gratitude towards a witty elderly lady and ill repaying her 
hospitality and the many good stories that I heard while I was 
stopping in her house. — The allusion to the lamp went back to 
Grillparzer,® who introduced a charming episode of a similar 
kind, which he had actually experienced, into his tragedy about 
Hero and Leander, Des Meeres und der Liebe Wellen [‘The Waves 
of the Sea and of Love’] — the Armada and the storm.* 

I must also refrain from any detailed analysis of the two 

^ [‘He blew and they were scattered .’ — Footnote added 1925:] An 
unsolicited biographer, Dr. Fritz Wittels [1924, 21; Engl, trans. (1924), 
28] has charged me with having omitted the name of Jehovah from the 
above motto. [Added 1930:] The English medallion bears the deity’s 
name in Hebrew lettering on a cloud in the background. It is so placed 
that it can be taken as being part either of the design or of the inscrip- 
tion. — [The idea of using the words as a motto at the head of a chapter on 
therapy is mentioned in a letter to Fliess of January 3, 1897 (Freud, 
1950a, Letter 54).] 

“ [^Frauenzimmer'’ , literally ‘women’s apartment’, is commonly used in 
German as a slightly derogatory word for ‘woman’. Cf. p. 354.] 

® [The weU-known Austrian dramatist (1791-1872).] 

* [Footnote added 1911:] In an interesting paper, Silberer (1910) has 
tried to show from this part of my dream that the dream-work can suc- 
ceed in reproducing not only the latent dream-thoughts but also the 



remaining episodes of the dream. ^ I will merely pick out the 
elements leading to the two childhood scenes on whose account 
alone I embarked upon a discussion of this dream. It will 
rightly be suspected that what compels me to make this sup- 
pression is sexual matei'ial; but there is no need to rest content 
with this explanation. After all, there are many things which 
one has to keep secret from other people but of which one 
makes no secret to oneself; and the question here is not as to 
why I am obliged to conceal the solution but as to the motives 
for the internal censorship which hid the true content of the 
dream from myself. I must therefore explain that the analysis of 
these three [last] episodes of the dream showed that they were 
impertinent boastings, the issue of an absurd megalomania 
which had long been suppressed in my waking life and a few 
of whose ramifications had even made their way into the 
dream’s manifest content (e.g. ^Ifelt I was being very cunning), 
and which incidentally accounted for my exuberant spirits 
during the evening before I had the dream. The boasting 
extended to all spheres; for instance, the mention of Graz went 
back to the slang phrase ‘What’s the price of Graz?’, which 
expresses the self-satisfaction of a person who feels extremely 
well-off. The first episode of the dream may also be included 
among the boastings by anyone who will bear in mind the 
great Rabelais’ incomparable account of the life and deeds of 
Gargantua and his son Pantagruel. 

Here is the material relating to the two childhood scenes 
which I have promised my readers. I had bought a new trunk 
for the journey, of a brownish violet colour. This colour appears 
more than once in the dream: the violet-brown violets made of a 
stiff material and beside them a thing known as a ‘ Madchenfdnger' 
[‘girl-catcher’]* — and the furnitiure in the ministerial apart- 

psychical processes that take place during the formation of dreams. 
(This is what he terms ‘the functional phenomenon’.) [See below, 
p. 503 ff . — Added 1914:] But he is, I think, overlooking the fact that ‘the 
psychical processes that take place during the formation of dreams’ 
were, like the rest, part of the material of my thoughts. In this boastful 
dream I was evidently proud of having discovered those processes. 

^ [The first of these is in fact further analysed on p. 431 ff.] 

* [This word, ordinarily used in the sense of ‘rake’ (see footnote on 
p. 217), seems here to be the slang name of some sort of buttonhole. 
Cf. corresponding terms such as ‘fascinator’ and ‘beau-catcher’ used in 
America for women’s head-dresses.] 


meats. It is commonly believed by children that people are struck 
by anything new. The following scene from my childhood has 
been described to me, and my memory of the description has 
taken the place of my memory of the scene itself. It appears that 
when I was two years old I still occasionally wetted the bed, and 
when I was reproached for this I consoled my father by promising 
to buy him a nice new red bed in N., the nearest town of any size. 
This was the origin of the parenthetical phrase in the dream to 
the effect that we had bought or had to buy the urinal in town; one 
must keep one’s promises. (Notice, too, the juxtaposition in 
symbolism of the male urinal and the female trunk or box. 
[Cf. p. 154.]) This promise of mine exhibited all the megalo- 
mania of childhood. We have already come across the sig- 
nificant part played in dreams by children’s difficulties in 
connection with micturition (cf. the dream reported on p. 201). 
We have also learned from the psycho-analysis of neurotic sub- 
jects the intimate connection between bed-wetting and the 
character trait of ambition.’^ 

When I was seven or eight years old there was another 
domestic scene, which I can remember very clearly. One even- 
ing before going to sleep I disregarded the rules which modesty 
lays down and obeyed the calls of nature in my parents’ bed- 
room while they were present. In the course of his reprimand, 
my father let fall the words: ‘The boy will come to nothing.’ 
This must have been a frightful blow to my ambition, for 
references to this scene are still constantly recurring in my 
dreams and are always linked with an enumeration of my 
achievements and successes, as though I wanted to say: ‘You 
see, I have come to something.’ This scene, then, provided the 
material for the final episode of the dream, in which — in 
revenge, of course — the roles were interchanged. The older 
man (clearly my father, since his blindness in one eye referred 
to his unilateral glaucoma® was now micturating in front of 
me, just as I had in front of him in my childhood. In the 
reference to his glaucoma I was reminding him of the cocaine, 

1 [This sentence was added in 1914. The first mention of the con- 
nection seems to have been made in the last paragraph of Freud’s paper 
on ‘Character and Anal Erotism’ (19086).] 

= There is another interpretation. He was one-eyed like Odin, the 
father-god . — Odhins Trost [Odin's Consolation, a mydiological novel by 
Felix Dahn (1880)] — ^The consolation I offered him in the first childhood 
scene of buying him a new bed. 



which had helped him in the operation [cf. p. 170 f.], as though I 
had in that way kept my promise. Moreover, I was making fun 
of him; I had to hand him the urinal because he was blind, and 
I revelled in allusions to my discoveries in connection with the 
theory of hysteria, of which I felt so proud. ^ 

1 Here is some further interpretative material. Handing him the glass 
[urinal] reminded me of the story of tlie peasant at the optician’s, trying 
glass after glass and still not being able to read. — {J^easznt-catcher 
\Bauernf anger, ‘sharper’]; girl-catcher [Aiddchenjangerl in the preceding 
episode of the dream.) — ^The way in which the father in Zola’s La tern 
was treated among the peasants after he had grown feeble-minded. — 
The tragic requital that lay in my father’s soiling his bed like a child 
during the last days of his life [cf. p. 429] ; hence my appearance in the 
dream as a skk-nurse. — ‘Here it was as though thinking and experiencing were 
one and the same thing.' This recalled a strongly revolutionary literary 
play by Oskar Panizza \^Das Liebeskonzil’ (1895)], in which God the 
Father is ignominiously treated as a paralytic old man. In his case will 
and deed were represented as one and the same thing, and he had to be 
restrained from cursing and swearing by one of his archangels, a kind of 
Ganymede, because his imprecations would be promptly fulfilled. — 
My making plans was a reproach against my father dating from a later 
period. And indeed the whole rebellious content of the dream, with its 
llse majesU and its derision of the higher authorities, went back to rebel- 
lion against my father. A Prince is known as the father of his coimtry; 
the father is the oldest, first, and for children the only authority, and 
from his autocratic power the other social authorities have developed in 
the course of the history of human civilization — except in so far as the 
‘matriarchy’ calls for a qualification of this assertion. — The phrase 
‘thinking and experiencing were one and the same thing’ had a reference to the 
explanation of hysterical symptoms, and the ‘male urinal’ belonged in the 
same connection. I need not explain to a Viennese the principle of the 
‘Gschnas’. It consists in constructing what appear to be rare and precious 
objects out of trivial and preferably comic and w'orthless materials (for 
instance, in making armour out of saucepans, wisps of straw and dinner 
rolls) — a avourite pastime at bohemian parties here in Vienna. I had 
observed that this is precisely what hysterical subjects do: alongside 
what has really happened to them, they unconsciously build up fright- 
ful or perverse imaginary events which they construct out of the most 
innocent and everyday material of their experience. It is to these phan- 
tasies that their symptoms are in the first instance attached and not to 
their recollections of real events, whether serious or equally innocent. 
This revelation had helped me over a number of difficulties and had 
given me particular pleasure. What made it possible for me to refer to 
this by means of the dream-element of the ‘male urinal’ was as follows. 
I had been told that at the latest ‘GrcAnar’-night a poisoned chalice 
belonging to Lucrezia Borgia had been exhibited; its central and prin- 
cipal constituent had been a male urinal of the type used in hospitals. 


The two scenes of micturition from my childhood were in any 
case closely linked to the topic of megalomania; but their 
emergence while I was travelling to Aussee was further assisted 
by the chance circumstance that there was no lavatory attached 
to my compartment and that I had reason to anticipate the 
‘ predicament which in fact arose in the morning. I awoke with 
the sensations of a physical need. One might, I think, be 
inclined to suppose that these sensations were the actual pro- 
voking agent of the dream; but I would prefer to take another 
view, namely that the desire to micturate was only called up 
by the dream-thoughts. It is quite unusual for me to be dis- 
turbed in my sleep by physical needs of any kind, especially 
at the hour at which I awoke on this occasion — a quarter to 
three in the morning. And I may meet a further objection by 
remarking that upon other journeys under more comfortable 
conditions I have scarcely ever felt a need to micturate when 
I have woken up early. But in any case it will do no harm to 
leave the point unresolved.^ 

My experiences in analysing dreams have drawn my atten- 
tion to the fact that trains of thought reaching back to earliest 
childhood lead off even from dreams which seem at first sight 
to have been completely interpreted, since their sources and 
instigating wish have been discovered without difficulty. I have 
therefore been compelled to ask myself whether this character- 
istic may not be a further essential precondition of dreaming. 
Stated in general terms, this would imply that every dream was 
linked in its manifest content with recent experiences and in its 
latent content with the most ancient experiences. And I have 
in fact been able to show in my analysis of hysteria that these 
ancient experiences have rem^iined recent in the proper sense 
of the word up to the immediate present. It is still extremely 
hard to demonstrate the truth of this suspicion; and I shall have 
to return in another connection (Chapter VII, [p. 553 ff.]) 
to a consideration of the probable part played by the earliest 
experiences of childhood in the formation of dreams. 

Of the three characteristics of memory in dreams enumerated 
at the beginning of this chapter, one — the preference for non- 
essential material in the content of dreams — has been satis- 
factorily cleared up by being traced back to dream-distortion. 

^ [This dream is further discussed on p. 432 ff.] 



We have been able to confirm the existence of the other two — 
the emphasis upon recent and upon infantile material — but we 
have not been able to account for them on the basis of the 
motives that lead to dreaming. These two characteristics, whose 
explanation and appreciation remain to be discovered, must 
be kept in mind. Their proper place must be looked for else- 
where — either in the psychology of the state of sleep or in the 
discussion of the structure of the mental apparatus upon which 
we shall later embark, after we have learnt that the interpreta- 
tion of dreams is like a window through which we can get a 
glimpse of the interior of that apparatus. [See Chapter VII.] 

There is, however, another inference following from these 
last dream-analyses to which I will draw attention at once. 
Dreams frequently seem to have more than one meaning. Not 
only, as our examples have shown, may they include several 
wish-fulfilments one alongside the other; but a succession of 
meanings or wish-fulfilments may be superimposed on one an- 
other, the bottom one being the fulfilment of a wish dating 
from earliest childhood. And here again the question arises 
whether it might not be more correct to assert that this occurs 
‘invariably’ rather than ‘frequently’.^ 

^ [Footnote added 1914:] The fact that the meanings of dreams arc 
arranged in superimposed layers is one of the most delicate, though also 
one of the most interesting, problems of dream-interpretation. Anyone 
who forgets this possibility will easily go astray and be led into making 
untenable assertions upon the nature of dreams. Yet it is still a fact that 
far too few investigations have been made into this matter. Hitherto the 
only thorough piece of research has been Otto Rank’s [1912a] into the 
fairly regular stratification of symbols in dreams provoked by pressure 
of the bladder. [See below, p. 402 f.] 



If one tries to interest an educated layman in the problems 
of dreams and, with that end in view, asks him what in his 
opinion are the sources from which they arise, one finds as a 
rule that he feels confident of possessing the answer to this 
part of the question. He thinks at once of the effects produced 
on the construction of dreams by digestive disturbances or 
difficulties — ‘dreams come from indigestion’ [cf. p. 22] — by 
postures accidentally assumed by the body and by other small 
incidents during sleep. It never seems to occur to him that 
when all these factors have been taken into account anything 
is left over that needs explaining. 

I have already discussed at length in the opening chapter 
(Section C) the part assigned by scientific writers to somatic 
sources of stimulation in the formation of dreams; so that here 
I need only recall the results of that enquiry. We found that 
three different kinds of somatic sources of stimulation were 
distinguished: objective sensory stimuli arising from external 
objects, internal states of excitation of the sense organs having 
only a subjective basis, and somatic stimuli derived from the 
interior of the body. We noticed moreover that the authorities 
were inclined to push into the background, or to exclude en- 
tirely, any possible psychical sources of dreams, as compared 
with these somatic stimuli (cf. p. 41). In our examination of the 
claims made on behalf of somatic sources of stimulation we 
arrived at the following conclusions. The significance of objec- 
tive excitations of the sense organs (consisting partly of chance 
stimuli during sleep and pardy of excitations such as cannot 
fail to impinge even upon a sleeping mind) is established from 
numerous observations and has been experimentally confirmed 
(cf. p. 24 f.). The part played by subjective sensory excitations 
seems to be demonstrated by the recurrence in dreams of 
hypnagogic sensory images (cf. p. 31 f.). And lastly it appears 
that, though it is impossible to prove that the images and ideas 
occurring in our dreams can be traced back to internal somatic 



Stimuli to the extent to which this has been asserted to be the 
case, nevertheless this origin finds support in the universally 
recognized influence exercised upon our dreams by states of 
excitation in our digestive, urinary and sexual organs [cf. 
p. 37]. 

It would appear, then, that ‘nervous stimulation’ and 
‘somatic stimulation’ are the somatic sources of dreams — that 
is to say, according to many writers, their sole source. 

On the other hand, we have already found a number of 
doubts expressed, which seemed to imply a criticism, not indeed 
of the correctness, but of the adequacy of the theory of somatic 

However secure the supporters of this theory might feel in its 
factual basis — especially as far as accidental and external 
nervous stimuli are concerned, since these can be traced in the 
content of dreams without any trouble at all — not one of them 
could fail to perceive that it is impossible to attribute the wealth 
of ideational material in dreams to external nervous stimuli 
alone. Miss Mary Whiton Calkins (1893, 312) examined her 
own and another person’s dreams for six weeks with this 
question in mind. She found that in only 13'2 per cent and 
6-7 per cent of them respectively was it possible to trace the 
element of external sense-perception; while only two cases in 
the collection were derivable from organic sensations. Here we 
have statistical confirmation of what I had been led to suspect 
from a hasty survey of my own experiences. 

It has often been proposed to separate off ‘dreams due to 
nervous stimulation’ firom other forms of dreams as a sub- 
species that has been thoroughly investigated. Thus Spitta 
[1882, 233] divides dreams into ‘dreams due to nervous stimula- 
tion’ and ‘dreams due to association’. This solution was, how- 
ever, bound to remain unsatisfactory so long as it was impossible 
to demonstrate the link between the somatic sources of a dream 
and its ideational content. Thus, in addition to the first objec- 
tion — the insufficient frequency of external sources of stimula- 
tion — ^there was a second one — the insufficient explanation of 
dreams afforded by such sources. We have a right to expect the 
supporters of this theory to give us explanations of two points: 
first, why it is that the external stimulus of a dream is not per- 
ceived in its true character but is invariably misunderstood 
(cf. the alarm-clock dreams on p. 27 f.); and secondly, why 


it is that the reaction of the perceiving mind to these misunder- 
stood stimuli should lead to results of such unpredictable 

By way of answer to these questions, Striimpell (1877, 108 f.) 
tells us that, because the mind is withdrawn from the external 
world during sleep, it is unable to give a correct interpretation 
of objective sensory stimuli and is obliged to construct illusions 
on the basis of what is in many respects an indeterminate im- 
pression. To quote his own words; ‘As soon as a sensation or 
complex of sensations or a feeling or a psychical process of any 
kind arises in the mind during sleep as a result of an external 
or internal nervous stimulus and is perceived by the mind, that 
process calls up sensory images from the circle of experiences 
left over in the mind from the waking state — that is to say, 
earlier perceptions — which are either bare or accompanied by 
their appropriate psychical values. The process surrounds itself, 
as it were, with a larger or smaller number of images of this 
kind and through them the impression derived from the nervous 
stimulus acquires its psychical value. We speak here (just as we 
usually do in the case of waking behaviour) of the sleeping 
mind “interpreting” the impressions made by the nervous 
stimulus. The outcome of this interpretation is what we des- 
cribe as a “dream due to nervous stimulation”, that is, a dream 
whose components are determined by a nervous stimulus pro- 
ducing its psychical effects in the mind according to the laws 
of reproduction.’ [Cf. pp. 29 f., 54 and 58.] 

Wundt [1874, 656 f.] is saying something essentially identical 
with this theory when he asserts that the ideas occurring in 
dreams are derived, for the most part at least, from sensory 
stimuli, including especially coenaesthetic sensations, and are 
for that reason mainly imaginative illusions and probably only 
to a small extent pure mnemic ideas intensified into hallucina- 
tions. [Cf. p. 40 f.] Striimpell (1877, 84) has hit upon an apt 
simile for the relation which subsists on this theory between 
the contents of a dream and its stimuli, when he writes that ‘it is 
as though the ten fingers of a man who knows nothing of music 
were wandering over the keys of a piano’. [Cf. pp. 78 and 122.] 
Thus a dream is not, on this view, a mental phenomenon based 
on psychical motives, but the outcome of a physiological 
stimulus which is expressed in psychical symptoms because the 
apparatus upon which the stimulus impinges is capable of no 



Other form of expression. A similar presupposition also under- 
lies, for instance, the famous analogy by means of which 
Meynert attempted to explain obsessive ideas: the analogy of a 
clock-face on which certain figures stand out by being more 
prominently embossed than the rest.^ 

However popular the theory of the somatic stimulation of 
dreams may have become and however attractive it may seem, 
its weak point is easily displayed. Every somatic dream- 
stimulus which requires the sleeping mental apparatus to inter- 
pret it by the construction of an illusion may give rise to an 
unlimited number of such attempts at interpretation — that is to 
say, it may be represented in the content of the dream by an 
immense variety of ideas. ^ But the theory put forward by 
Striimpell- and Wundt is incapable of producing any motive 
governing the relation between an external stimulus and the 
dream-idea chosen for its interpretation — ^is incapable, that is, 
of explaining what Lipps (1883, 170) describes as the ‘remark- 
able choice often made’ by these stimuli ‘in the course of their 
productive activity’. Objections have further been raised 
against the presupposition upon which the whole theory of 
illusion is based — the presupposition that the sleeping mind is 
incapable of recognizing the true nature of objective sensory 
stimuli. Burdach, the physiologist, showed us long ago that even 
in sleep the mind is very well able to interpret correctly the 
sense impressions that reach it and to react in accordance with 
that correct interpretation; for he recalled the fact that par- 
ticular sense impressions which seem important to the sleeper 
can be excepted from the general neglect to which such im- 
pressions are subjected during sleep '^as in the case of a nursing 
mother or wet-nurse and her charge), and that a sleeper is 
much more certain to be woken by the sound of his own name 
than by any indifferent auditory impression — all of w'hjch 
implies that the mind distinguishes between sensations during 

^ [This has not been traced in Meynerfs published writing] 

^[Footnote added 1914]: Mourly Void [1910-12] has produced a 
two-voluzne work containing detailed and precise repfirts e£ a series 
of experimentally produced dreams. [Cf. p. 38 £] I ^sould iBcswa- 
mend a study of this work to anyone who widses to cmswiitcjc htnmidf 
of how little light is thrown on the content eS indmdual dreams by 
the conditions cf the egteriments described in it and of bow lilde fwrlp 
in general is afibrded by such experiments towaidi an undeislaiidEoig 
of Sie ptoUans of dreams, [See, however, p, 181 £ at] 


sleep (cf. p. 53). Burdach went on to infer from these obser- 
vations that what we must presume during the state of sleep 
is not an ijicapacity to interpret sensory stimuli but a lack of 
interest in them. The same arguments which were used by 
Burdach in 1830 were brought forward once more without any 
modifications by Lipps in 1883 in his criticism of the theory 
of somatic stimulation.Thus tlie mind seems to behave like the 
sleeper in the anecdote. When someone asked him if he was 
asleep, he replied ‘No’. But when his questioner went on to say: 
‘Then lend me ten florins’, he took refuge in a subterfuge and 
replied: ‘I’m asleep.’ 

The inadequacy of the theory of the somatic stimulation of 
dreams can be demonstrated in other ways. Observation shows 
that external stimuli do not necessarily compel me to dream, 
even though such stimuli appear in the content of my dream 
when and if I do dream. Supposing, let us say, that I am sub- 
jected to a tactile stimulus while I am asleep. A variety of 
different reactions are then open to me. I may disregard it, and 
when I wake up I may find, for instance, that my leg is un- 
covered or that there is some pressure on my arm; pathology 
provides very numerous instances in which various powerfully 
exciting sensory and motor stimuli can remain without effect 
during sleep. Or again, I may be aware of the sensation in my 
sleep — I may be aware of it, as one might say, ‘through’ my 
sleep — (which is what happens as a rule in the case of painful 
stimuli) but without my weaving the pain into a dream. And 
thirdly, I may react to the stimulus by waking up so as to get 
rid of it.^ It is only as a fourth possibility that the nervous 
stimulus may cause me to dream. Yet the other possibilities are 
realized at least as frequently as this last one of constructing a 
dream. And this could not happen unless the motive for dream- 
ing lay elsewhere then in somatic sources of stimulation. 

Certain other writers — Schemer [1861] and Volkelt [1875], 
the philosopher, who adopted Schemer’s views — ^formed a just 
estimate of the gaps which I have here indicated in the explana- 
tion of dreams as being due to somatic stimulation. These 
writers attempted to define more precisely the mental activities 

1 [Footnote added 1919:] Cf. Landauer (1918) on behaviour during 
sleep. Anyone can observe persons asleep carrying out acdons which 
obviously have a meaning. A man asleep is not reduced to complete 
idiocy; on the contrary, he is capable of logical and deliberate acts. 



which lead to the production of such variegated dream-images 
from the somatic stimuli; in other words, they sought to regard 
dreaming once again as something essentially mental — as a 
psychical activity. [Cf. p. 83 ff.] Schemer did not merely depict 
the psychical characteristics unfolded in the production of 
dreams in terms charged with poetic feeling and glowing with 
life; he believed, too, that he had discovered the principle 
according to which the mind deals with the stimuli presented 
to it. On his view, the dream-work, when the imagination is 
set free from the shackles of daytime, seeks to give a symbolic 
representation of the nature of the organ from which the 
stimulus arises and of the nature of the stimulus itself. Thus he 
provides a kind of ‘dream-book’ to serve as a guide to the 
interpretation of dreams, which makes it possible to deduce 
from the dream-images inferences as to the somatic feelings, the 
state of the organs and the character of the stimuli concerned. 
‘Thus the image of a cat expresses a state of angry ill-temper, 
and the image of a smooth and lighdy-coloured loaf of bread 
stands for physical nudity.’ [Volkelt, 1875, 32.] The human 
body as a whole is pictured by the dream-imagination as a 
house and the separate organs of the body by portions of a house. 
In ‘dreams with a dental stimulus’, an entrance-hall with a 
high, vaulted roof corresponds to the oral cavity and a stair- 
case to the descent from the throat to the oesophagus. ‘In 
dreams due to headaches, the top of the head is represented by 
the ceiling of a room covered with disgusting, toad-like spiders.’ 
[Ibid., 33 f.] A variety of such symbols are employed by 
dreams to represent the same organ. ‘Thus the breathing lung 
will be symbolically represented by a blazing furnace, with 
flames roaring with a sound like the passage of air; the heart 
will be represented by hollow boxes or baskets, the bladder by 
round, bag-shaped objects or, more generally, by hollow ones.’ 
[Ibid., 34.] ‘It is of special importance that at the end of a 
dream the organ concerned or its function is often openly re- 
vealed, and as a rule in relation to the dreamer’s own body. 
Thus a dream with a dental stimulus usually ends by the dreamer 
picturing himself pulling a tooth out of his mouth.’ [Ibid., 35.] 
This theory of dream-interpretation cannot be said to have 
been very favourably received by other writers on the subject. 
Its main feature seems to be its extravagance; and there has 
even been hesitation in recognizing such justification as, in my 


opinion, it can lay claim to. As will have been seen, it involves 
a revival of dream-interpretation by means of symbolism — the 
same method that was employed in antiquity, except that the 
field from which interpretations are collected is restricted within 
the limits of the human body. Its lack of any technique of 
interpreting that can be grasped scientifically must greatly 
narrow the application of Schemer’s theory. It seems to leave 
the door open to arbitrary interpretations, especially as in its 
case, too, the same stimulus can be represented in the dream- 
content in a variety of different ways. Thus even Schemer’s 
disciple, Volkelt, found himself unable to confirm the view that 
the body was represented by a house. Objections are also bound 
to arise from the fact that once again the mind is saddled with 
the dream-work as a useless and aimless function; for, according 
to the theory we are discussing, the mind is content with making 
phantasies about the stimulus with which it is occupied, without 
the remotest hint at anything in the nature of disposing of the 

There is one particular criticism, however, which is gravely 
damaging to Schemer’s theory of the symbolization of somatic 
stimuli. These stimuli are present at all times and it is generally 
held that the mind is more accessible to them during sleep than 
when it is awake. It is difficult to understand, then, why the 
mind does not dream continuously all through the night, and, 
indeed, dream every night of ail the organs. An attempt may 
be made to avoid this criticism by adding the further condition 
that in order to arouse dream-activity it is necessary for special 
excitations to proceed from the eyes, ears, teeth, intestines, etc. 
But the difficulty then arises of proving the objective nature of 
such increases of stimulus — which is only possible in a small 
number of cases. If dreams of flying are a symbolization of the 
rising and sinking of the lobes of the lungs [cf. p. 37 f.], then, as 
Striimpell [1877, 119] has already pointed out, either such 
dreams would have to be much more frequent than they are 
or it would be necessary to prove an increase in the activity of 
breathing in the course of them. There is a third possibility, 
which is the most probable of all, namely that special motives 
may be temporarily operative which direct the attention to 
visceral sensations that are uniformly present at all times. This 
possibility, however, carries us beyond the scope of Schemer’s 



The value of the views put forward by Schemer and Volkelt 
lies in the fact that they draw attention to a number of character- 
istics of the content of dreams which call for explanation and 
seem to promise fresh discoveries. It is perfectly true that dreams 
contain symbolizations of bodily organs and functions, that 
water in a dream often points to a urinary stimulus, and that 
the male genitals can be represented by an upright stick or a 
pillar, and so on. In the case of dreams in which the field of 
vision is full of movement and bright colours, in contrast to the 
drabness of other dreams, it is scarcely possible not to interpret 
them as ‘dreams with a visual stimulus’; nor can one dispute 
the part played by illusions in the case of dreams characterized 
by noise and a confusion of voices. Schemer [1861, 167] reports 
a dream of two rows of pretty, fair-haired boys standing oppo- 
site each other on a bridge, and of their attacking each other 
and then going back to their original position, till at last the 
dreamer saw himself sitting down on a bridge and pulling a 
long tooth out of his jaw. Similarly Volkelt [1875, 52] reports 
a dream in which two rows of drawers in a cupboard played a 
part and which once more ended with the dreamer pulling out 
a tooth. Dream-formations such as these, which are recorded 
in great numbers by the two authors, forbid our dismissing 
Schemer’s theory as an idle invention without looking for its 
kernel of truth. [See p. 346.] The task, then, that faces us is to 
find an explanation of another kind for the supposed symboliza- 
tion of what is alleged to be a dental stimulus.^ 

Throughout the whole of this discussion of the theory of the 
somatic sources of dreams I have refrained from making use 
of the argument based upon my dream-analyses. If it can be 
proved, by a procedure which other writers have not employed 
upon their dream-material, that dreams possess a value of their 
own as psychical acts, that wishes are the motive for their con- 
struction and that experiences of the preceding day provide the 
immediate material for their content, then any other theory of 
dreams, which neglects so important a procedure of research 
and accordingly represents dreams as a useless and puzzling 
psychical reaction to somatic stimuli, stands condemned with- 
out there being any necessity for specific criticisms. Otherwise — 
and this seems highly improbable — there would have to be two 
^ [These dreams are further considered on p. 385 ff.] 


quite different kinds of dreaming, one of which has come only 
under my observation and the other only under that of the 
earlier authorities. All that remains, therefore, is to find a place 
in my theory of dreams for the facts upon which the current 
theory of the somatic stimulation of dreams is based. 

We have already taken the first step in this direction by 
advancing the thesis (see p. 178 f.) that the dream-work is under 
the necessity of combining into a unity all instigations to dream- 
ing which are active simultaneously. We found that, when two 
or more experiences capable of creating an impression are left 
over from the previous day, the wishes derived from them are 
combined in a single dream, and similarly that the psychically 
significant impression and the indifferent experiences from the 
previous day are brought together in the dream-material, pro- 
vided always that it is possible to set up communicating ideas 
between them. Thus a dream appears to be a reaction to every- 
thing that is simultaneously present in the sleeping mind as 
currently active material. So far as we have hitherto analysed 
the material of dreams, we have seen it as a collection of 
psychical residues and memory-traces, to which (on account 
of the preference shown for recent and infantile material) we 
have been led to attribute a hitherto indefinable quality of 
being ‘currently active’. We can foresee, then, without any great 
difficulty, what will happen if fresh material in the form of 
sensations is added during sleep to these currently active 
memories. It is once again owing to the fact of their being 
currently active that these sensory excitations are of importance 
for the dream; they arc united with the other currently active 
psychical material to furnish what is used for the construction 
of the dream. To put it another way, stimuli arising during 
sleep are worked up into a wish-fulfilment the other consti- 
tuents of which are the familiar psychical ‘day’s residues’. This 
combination need not occur; as I have already pointed out, there 
is more than one way of reacting to a somatic stimulus during 
sleep. When it does occur, it means that it has been possible to 
find ideational material to serve as the content of the dream of 
such a sort as to be able to represent both kinds of source of 
the dream — the somatic and the psychical. 

The essential nature of the dream is not altered by the fact 
of somatic material being added to its psychical sources: a 
dream remains the fulfilment of a wish, no matter in what way 


the expression of that wish-fulfilment is determined by the 
currently active material. 

I am prepared to leave room at this point for the operation 
of a number of special factors which can lend a varying im- 
portance to external stimuli in relation to dreams. As I picture 
it, a combination of individual factors, physiological and acci- 
dental, produced by the circumstances of the moment, is what 
determines how a person shall behave in particular cases of 
comparatively intense objective stimulation during sleep. The 
habitual or accidental depth of his sleep, taken in conjunction 
with the intensity of the stimulus, will make it possible in one 
case for him to suppress the stimulus so that his sleep is not 
interrupted and in another case will compel him to wake up or 
will encourage an attempt to overcome the stimulus by weaving 
it into a dream. In accordance with these various possible com- 
binations, external objective stimuli will find expression in 
dreams with greater or less frequency in one person than in 
another. In my own case, since I am an excellent sleeper and 
obstinately refuse to allow anything to disturb my sleep, it very 
rarely happens that external causes of excitation find their way 
into my dreams; whereas psychical motives obviously cause me 
to dream very easily. In fact I have only noted a single dream 
in which an objective and painful source of stimulus is recogniz- 
able; and it will be most instructive to examine the effect which 
the external stimulus produced in this particular dream. 

I was riding on a grey horse, timidly and awkwardly to begin with, 
as though I were only reclining upon it. J met one of my colleagues, P., 
who was sitting high on a horse, dressed in a tweed suit, and who drew 
my attention to something {probably to my bad seat). I now began to find 
myself sitting more and more firmly and comfortably on my highly 
intelligent horse, and noticed that I was feeling quite at home up there. 
My saddle was a kind of bolster, which completely filled the space 
between its neck and crupper. In this way I rode straight in between two 
vans. After riding some distance up the street, I turned round and tried 
to dismount, first in front of a small open chapel that stood in the street 
frontage. Then I actually did dismount in front of another chapel that 
stood near it. My hotel was in the same street; I might have let the horse 
go to it on its own, but I preferred to lead it there. It was as though I 
should have felt ashamed to arrive at it on horseback. A hotel 'boots' was 
standing in front of the hotel; he showed me a note of mine that had been 



found, and laughed at me over it. In the note was written, doubly under- 
lined: ‘JIo food’ and then another remark (indistinct) such as ‘jVb 
work’, together with a vague idea that I was in a strange town in which 
I was doing no work. 

It would not be supposed at first sight that this dream 
originated under the influence, or rather under the compul- 
sion, of a painful stimulus. But for some days before I had been 
suffering from boils which made every movement a torture; and 
finally a boil the size of an apple had risen at the base of my 
scrotum, which caused me the most unbearable pain with every 
step I took. Feverish lassitude, loss of appetite and the hard 
work with which I nevertheless carried on — all these had com- 
bined with the pain to depress me. I was not properly capable 
of discharging my medical duties. There was, however, one 
activity for which, in view of the nature and situation of my 
complaint, I should certainly have been less fitted than for any 
other, and that was — riding. And this was precisely the activity 
in which the dream landed me: it was the most energetic denial 
of my illness that could possibly be imagined. I cannot in fact 
ride, nor have I, apart from this, had dreams of riding. I have 
only sat on a horse once in my life and that was without a 
saddle, and I did not enjoy it. But in this dream I was riding 
as though I had no boil on my perineum — or rather because I 
wanted not to have one. My saddle, to judge from its description, 
was the poultice which had made it possible for me to fall asleep. 
Under its assuaging influence I had probably been unaware of 
my pain during the first hours of sleep. The painful feelings had 
then announced themselves and sought to wake me; where- 
upon the dream came and said soothingly: ‘No! Go on sleeping! 
There’s no need to wake up. You haven’t got a boil; for you’re 
riding on a horse, and it’s quite certain that you couldn’t ride 
if you had a boil in that particular place.’ And the dream was 
successful. The pain was silenced, and I went on sleeping. 

But the dream was not content with ‘suggesting away’ my 
boil by obstinately insisting upon an idea that was inconsistent 
with it and so behaving like the hallucinatory delusion of the 
mother who had lost her child or the merchant whose losses had 
robbed him of his fortune.^ The details of the sensation which 

^ Cf. the passage in Griesinger [1861, 106, referred to on p. 91 f.] and 
my remarks in my second paper on the neuro-psychoses of defence 
(Freud, 18966). [Actually the reference seems to be to a paragraph near 
the end of Freud’s first paper on that subject (Freud, 1894a).] 



was being repudiated and of the picture which was employed 
in order to repress that sensation also served the dream as a 
means of connecting other material that was currently active 
in my mind with the situation in the dream and of giving that 
material representation. I was riding on a gr^ horse, whose 
colour corresponded precisely to the pepper-and-salt colour of 
the suit my colleague P. was wearing when I had last met him 
in the country. The cause of my boils had been ascribed to my 
eating highly-spiced food — an aetiology that was at least pre- 
ferable to the sugar [diabetes] which might also occur to one in 
connection with boils. My friend P. liked to ride the high horse 
over me ever since he had taken over one of my women patients 
on whom I had pulled off some remarkable feats. (In the 
dream I began by riding tangentially — like the feat of a trick- 
rider.) But in fact, like the horse in the anecdote of the Sunday 
horseman,^ this patient had taken me wherever she felt inclined. 
Thus the horse acquired the symbolic meaning of a woman 
patient. (It was highly intelligent in the dream.) felt quite at 
home up there' referred to the position I had occupied in this 
patient’s house before I was replaced by P. Not long before, one 
of my few patrons among the leading physicians in this city had 
remarked to me in connection with this same house: ‘You struck 
me as being firmly in the saddle there.’ It was a remarkable 
feat, too, to be able to carry on my psychotherapeutic work for 
eight or ten hours a day while I was having so much pain. 
But I knew that I could not go on long with my peculiarly 
difficult work unless I was in completely sound physical health; 
and my dream was full of gloomy allusions to the situation in 
which I should then find myself. (The note which neurasthenics 
bring with them to show the doctor; no work, no food.) In the 
course of further interpretation I saw that the dream-work had 
succeeded in finding a path from the wishful situation of riding 
to some scenes of quarrelling from my very early childhood which 
must have occurred between me and a nephew of mine, a year 
my senior, who was at present living in England. [Cf. p. 424 f.] 
Furthermore, the dream had derived some of its elements from 
my travels in Italy: the street in the dream was composed of 
impressions of Verona and Siena. A still deeper interpretation 

^ [In a letter to Fliess of July 7, 1898 (Freud, 1950a, Letter 92), Freud 
describes ‘the famous principle of Itzig, the Sunday horseman: “Itzig, 
where are you riding to?” — “Don’t ask me! Ask the horse!” ’] 


led to sexual dream-thoughts, and I recalled the meaning 
which references to Italy seem to have had in the dreams of a 
woman patient who had never visited that lovely country: ‘gen 
Ilalien [to Italy ]’ — ‘Genitalien [genitals]’; and this was connected, 
too, with the house in which I had preceded my friend P. as 
physician, as well as with the situation of my boil. 

In another dream' I similarly succeeded in warding off a 
threatened interruption of my sleep which came this time from 
a sensory stimulus. In this case it was only by chance, however, 
that I was able to discover the link between the dream and its 
accidental stimulus and thus to understand the dream. One 
morning at the height of summer, while I was staying at a 
mountain resort in the Tyrol, I woke up knowing I had had a 
dream that the Pope was dead. I failed to interpret this dream — 
a non-visual one — and only remembered as part of its basis 
that I had read in a newspaper a short time before that his 
Holiness was suffering from a slight indisposition. In the course 
of the morning, however, my wife asked me if I had heard the 
frightful noise made by the pealing of bells that morning. I 
had been quite unaware of them, but I now understood my 
dream. It had been a reaction on the part of my need for sleep 
to the noise with which the pious Tyrolese had been trying to 
wake me. I had taken my revenge on them by drawing the 
inference which formed the content of the dream, and I had 
then continued my sleep without paying any more attention 
to the noise. 

The dreams quoted in earlier chapters included several which 
might serve as instances of the working-over of such so-called 
nervous stimuli. My dream of drinking water in great gulps 
[p. 123] is an example. The somatic stimulus was apparently 
its only source, and the wish derived from the sensation (the 
thirst, that is) was apparently its only motive. The case is 
similar with other simple dreams in which a somatic stimulus 
seems able by itself to construct a wish. The dream of the woman 
patient who threw off the cooling apparatus from her cheek 
during the night [p. 125] presents an unusual method of re- 

' [This paragraph was added in 1914. The dream had already been 
very briefly recorded in Freud, 1913A (No. 1); it will also be found in 
Lecture V of Freud, 1916-17.] 



acting to a painful stimulus with a wish-fulfilment: it appears 
as though the patient succeeded temporarily in making herself 
analgesic, while ascribing her pains to someone else. 

My dream of the three Fates [p. 204 if.] was clearly a 
hunger dream. But it succeeded in shifting the craving for 
nourishment back to a child’s longing for his mother’s breast, 
and it made use of an innocent desire as a screen for a more 
serious one which could not be so openly displayed. My dream 
about Count Thun [p. 208 IF.] showed how an accidental 
physical need can be linked up with the most intense (but at the 
same time the most intensely suppressed) mental impulses. 
And a case such as that related by Gamier (1872, 1, 476) of 
how the First Consul wove the noise of an exploding bomb into 
a battle dream before he woke up from it [p. 26] reveals with 
quite special clarity the nature of the sole motive that leads 
mental activity to concern itself with sensations during sleep. 
A young barrister,^ fresh from his first important bankruptcy 
proceedings, who dropped asleep one afternoon, behaved in 
just the same way as the great Napoleon. He had a dream of a 
certain G. Reich of Husyatin [a town in Galicia] whom he had 
come across during a bankruptcy case; the name ‘Husyatin’ 
kept on forcing itself on his notice, till he woke up and found 
that his wife (who was suffering from a bronchial catarrh) 
was having a violent fit of coughing [in German ‘husten''\. 

Let us compare this dream of the first Napoleon (who, inci- 
dentally, was an extremely sound sleeper) with that of the 
sleepy student who was roused by his landlady and told that it 
was time to go to the hospital, and who proceeded to dream 
that he was in bed at the hospital and then slept on, under 
the pretext that as he was already in the hospital there was no 
need for him to get up and go there [p. 125]. This latter dream 
was clearly a dream of convenience. The dreamer admitted his 
motive for dreaming without any disguise; but at the same 
time he gave away one of the secrets of dreaming in general. 
All dreams are in a sense dreams of convenience: they serve the 
purpose of prolonging sleep instead of waking up. Dreams are the 
GUARDIANS of sUep and not its disturbers. We shall have occasion 
elsewhere to justify this view of them in relation to awakening 
factors of a.psychical kind [see below, p. 578 f.] ; but we are already 
in a position to show that it is applicable to the part played by 
^ [This sentence and the nract were added in 1909.] 


objective external stimuli. Either the mind pays no attention at 
all to occasions for sensation during sleep — if it is able to do this 
despite the intensity of the stimuli and the significance which it 
knows attaches to them; or it makes use of a dream in order to 
deny the stimuli; or, thirdly, if it is obliged to recognize them, 
it seeks for an interpretation of them which will make the 
currently active sensation into a component part of a situation 
which is wished for and which is consistent with sleeping. The 
currently active sensation is woven into a dream in order to rob 
it of reality. Napoleon could sleep on — with a conviction that 
what was trying to disturb him was only a dream-memory of 
the thunder of the guns at Arcole.^ 

Thus the wish to sleep (which the conscious ego is concentrated upon, 
and which, together with the dream-censorship and the ‘secondary 
revision’ which I shall mention later [p. 488 ff.], constitute the 
conscious ego’s share in dreaming) must in every case be reckoned as 
one of the motives for the formation of dreams, and every success- 
ful dream is a fulfilment of that wish.^ We shall discuss elsewhere 
[p. 570 ff.] the relations subsisting between this universal, 
invariably present and unchanging wish to sleep and the other 
wishes, of which now one and now another is fulfilled by the 
content of the dream. But we have found in the wish to sleep 
the factor that is able to fill the gap in the theory of Strumpell 
and Wundt [p. 223 f.] and to explain the perverse and capric- 
ious manner in which external stimuli are interpreted. The 
correct interpretation, which the sleeping mind is perfectly 
capable of making, would involve an active interest and would 
require that sleep should be brought to an end; for that reason, 
of all the possible interpretations, only those are admitted which 
are consistent with the absolute censorship exercised by the 
wish to sleep. Tt is the nightingale and not the lark.’ For if it 
were the lark it would mean the end of the lovers’ night. 
Among the interpretations of the stimulus which are accordingly 

1 The two sources from which I know this dream do not agree in their 
account of it. 

2 [The portion of this sentence in brackets was not included in the 
first or second edition (1900 and 1909). The phrase ‘which the conscious 
ego is concentrated upon, and which, together with the dream-censor- 
ship, constitute the conscious ego’s contribution to dreaming’ was added 
in 1911. The phrase ‘and the "secondary revision” which we shall 
mention later’ was added as a footnote in 1914 and incorporated in the 
text in 1930.] 



admissible, that one is then selected which can provide the 
best link with the wishful impulses lurking in the mind. Thus 
everything is unambiguously determined and nothing is left 
to arbitrary decision. The misinterpretation is not an illusion 
but, as one might say, an evasion. Here once again, however, 
just as when, in obedience to the dream-censorship, a substitu- 
tion is effected by displacement, we have to admit that we are 
faced by an act which deviates from normal psychical processes. 

When external nervous stimuli and internal somatic stimuli 
are intense enough to force psychical attention to themselves, 
then — provided that their outcome is dreaming and not waking 
up — they serve as a fixed point for the formation of a dream, a 
nucleus in its material; a wish-fulfilment is then looked for that 
shall correspond to this nucleus, just as (see above [p. 228 ]) 
intermediate ideas are looked for between two psychical dream- 
stimuli. To that extent it is true that in a number of dreams the 
content of the dream is dictated by the somatic element. In 
this extreme instance it may even happen that a wish which is 
not actually a currently active one is called up for the sake of 
constructing a dream. A dream, however, has no alternative 
but to represent a wish in the situation of having been fulfilled; 
it is, as it were, faced with the problem of looking for a wish 
which can be represented as fulfilled by the currently active 
sensation. If this immediate material is of a painful or distressing 
kind, that does not necessarily mean that it cannot be used for 
the construction of a dream. The mind has wishes at its dis- 
posal whose fulfilment produces unpleasure. This seems self- 
contradictory; but it becomes intelligible when we take into 
account the presence of two psychical agencies and a censorship 
between them. 

As we have seen, there are ‘repressed’ wishes in the mind, 
which belong to the first system and whose fulfilment is opposed 
by the second system. In saying that there are such wishes I am 
not making a historical statement to the effect that they once 
existed and were later abolished. The theory of repression, 
which is essential to the study of the psychoneuroses, asserts 
that these repressed wishes still exist — though there is a simul- 
taneous inhibition which holds them down. Linguistic usage 
hits the mark in speaking of the ‘suppression’ [i.e. the ‘pressing 
down’] of these impulses. The psychical arrangemente that 


make it possible for such impulses to force their way to realiza- 
tion remain in being and in working order. Should it happen, 
however, that a suppressed wish of this kind is carried into 
effect, and that its inhibition by the second system (the system 
that is admissible to consciousness) is defeated, this defeat finds 
expression as unpleasure. In conclusion: if sensations of an un- 
pleasurable nature arising from somatic sources occur during 
sleep, the dream-work makes use of that event in order to 
represent — subject to the continuance of the censorship to a 
greater or less degree — the fulfilment of some wish which is 
normally suppressed.^ 

This state of affairs is what makes possible one group of 
anxiety-dreams, — dream-structures unpropitious from the point 
of view of the wish-theory. A second group of them reveal a 
different mechanism; for anxiety in dreams may be psycho- 
neurotic anxiety: it may originate from psychosexual excita- 
tions — ^in which case the anxiety corresponds to repressed libido. 
Where this is so, the anxiety, like the whole anxiety-dream, has 
the significance of a neurotic symptom, and we come near the 
limit at which the wish-fulfilling purpose of dreams breaks 
down. [See pp. 160 ff. and 579 If.] But there are some amxiety- 
dreams[ — those of the first group — ]in which the feeling of 
anxiety is determined somatically — where, for instance, there 
happens to be difficulty in breathing owing to disease of the 
lungs or heart; — and in such cases the anxiety is exploited in 
order to assist the fulfilment in the form of dreams of ener- 
getically suppressed wishes which, if they had been dreamt 
about for psychical reasons, would have led to a similar release 
of anxiety. But there is no difficulty in reconciling these two 
apparently different groups. In both groups of dreams two 
psychical factors are involved: an inclination towards an affect 
and an ideational content; and these are intimately related to 
each other. If one of them is currently active, it calls up the 
other even in a dream; in the one case the somatically deter- 
mined anxiety calls up the suppressed ideational content, and 
in the other the ideational content with its accompanying 
sexual excitation, having been set free from repression, calls up 
a release of anxiety. We can put it that in the first case a 
somatically determined affect is given a psychical interpreta- 

1 [This whole subject is further discussed in Section C of Chapter 
VII; see especially p. 557 ff. Cf. also pp. 267 and 487.] 



tion; while in the other case, though the whole is psychically 
determined, the content which had been suppressed is easily 
replaced by a somatic interpretation appropriate to anxiety. 
The difficulties which all this offers to our understanding have 
little to do with dreams: they arise from the fact that we are 
here touching on the problem of the generation of anxiety and 
on the problem of repression. 

There can be no doubt that physical coenaesthesia [or diffuse 
general sensibility, see p. 35] is among the internal somatic 
stimuli which can dictate the content of dreams. It can do so, 
not in the sense that it can provide the dream’s content, but in 
the sense that it can force upon the dream-thoughts a choice of 
the material to be represented in the content by putting forward 
one part of the material as being appropriate to its own char- 
acter and by holding back another part. Apart from this, the 
coenaesthetic feelings left over from the preceding day link 
themselves up, no doubt, with the psychical residues which 
have such an important influence on dreams. This general 
mood may persist unchanged in the dream or it may be 
mastered, and thus, if it is unpleasurable, may be changed into 
its opposite.^ 

Thus, in my opinion, somatic sources of stimulation during 
sleep (that is to say, sensations during sleep), unless they are of 
unusual intensity, play a similar part in the formation of dreams 
to that played by recent but indifferent impressions left over 
from the previous day. I believe, that is, that they are brought 
in to help in the formation of a dream if they fit in appropriately 
with the ideational content derived from the dream’s psychical 
sources, but otherwise not. They are treated like some cheap 
material always ready to hand, which is employed whenever 
it is needed, in contrast to a precious material which itself pre- 
scribes the way in which it shall be employed. If, to take a 
simile, a patron of the arts brings an artist some rare stone, 
such as a piece of onyx, and asks him to create a work of art 
from it, then the size of the stone, its colour and markings, help 
to decide what head or what scene shall be represented in it. 
Whereas in the case of a uniform and plentiful material such 
as marble or sandstone, the artist merely follows some idea that 
is present in his own mind. It is only in this way, so it seems to 
‘ [Cf. p. 487 ff. — ^This last sentence was added in 1914.] 


me, that we can explain the fact that dream-content provided 
by somatic stimuli of no unusual intensity fails to appear in 
every dream or every night. [Cf. p. 226.] ^ 

I can perhaps best illustrate my meaning by an example, 
which, moreover, will bring us back to dream-interpretation. 

One day I had been trying to discover what might be the 
meaning of the feelings of being inhibited, of being glued to the 
spot, of not being able to get something done, and so on, which 
occur so often in dreams and are so closely akin to feelings of 
anxiety. That night I had the following dream: 

I was very incompletely dressed and was going upstairs from a flat on 
the ground floor to a higher storey. I was going up three steps at a time 
and was delighted at my agility. Suddenly I saw a maidservant coming 
down the stairs — coming towards me, that is. I felt ashamed and tried 
to hurry, and at this point the feeling of being inhibited set in: I was 
glued to the steps and unable to budge from the spot. 

Analysis. — The situation in the dream is taken from everyday 
reality. I occupy two flats in a house in Vienna, which are con- 
nected only by the public staircase. My consulting-room and 
study are on the upper ground floor and my living rooms are 
one storey higher. When, late in the evening, I have finished 
my work down below, I go up the stairs to my bedroom. On 
the evening before I had the dream, I had in fact made this 
short journey in rather disordered dress — that is to say, I had 
taken off my collar and tie and cuffs. In the dream this had 
been turned into a higher degree of undress, but, as usual, an 
indeterminate one. [Cf. p. 245.] I usually go upstairs two or 
three steps at a time; and this was recognized in the dream itself 
as a wish-fulfilment: the ease with which I achieved it reassured 
me as to the functioning of my heart. Further, this method of 
going upstairs was an effective contrast to the inhibition in the 
second half of the dream. It showed me — ^what needed no 
proving — that dreams find no difficulty in representing motor 
acts carried out to perfection. (One need only recall dreams of 

^ \Footnote added 1914:] Rank has shown in a number of papers [1910, 
1912a and 19126] that certain arousal dreams produced by organic 
stimuli (dreams with a urinary stimulus and dreams of emission or 
orgasm) are especially suited to demonstrate the struggle between the 
need to sleep and the claims of organic needs, as well as the influence of 
the latter upon the content of dreams. [See p. 402 f.] 



The staircase up which I was going, however, was not the 
one in my house. At first I failed to recognize it and it was only 
the identity of the person who met me that made it clear to me 
what locality was intended. This person was the maid-servant 
of the old lady whom I was visiting twice a day in order to give 
her injections [cf. p. 118 ]; and the staircase, too, was just like 
the one in her house which I had to go up twice a day. 

Now how did this staircase and this female figure come to be 
in my dream? The feeling of shame at not being completely 
dressed is no doubt of a sexual nature; but the maid-servant 
whom I dreamt about was older than I am, surly and far from 
attractive. The only answer to the problem that occurred to 
me was this. When I paid my morning visits to this house I 
used as a rule to be seized with a desire to clear my throat as 
I went up the stairs and the product of my expectoration would 
fall on the staircase. For on neither of these floors was there a 
spittoon; and the view I took was that the cleanliness of the 
stairs should not be maintained at my expense but should be 
made possible by the provision of a spittoon. The concierge, an 
equally elderly and surly woman (but of cleanly instincts, as I 
was prepared to admit), looked at the matter in a different 
light. She would lie in wait for me to see whether I should again 
make free of the stairs, and, if she found that I did, I used to 
hear her grumbling audibly; and for several days afterwards 
she would omit the usual greeting when we met. The day before 
I had the dream the concierge’s party had received a reinforce- 
ment in the shape of the maid-servant. I had, as usual, con- 
cluded my hurried visit to the patient, when the servant stopped 
me in the hall and remarked: ‘You might have wiped your 
boots, doctor, before you came into the room to-day. You’ve 
made the red carpet all dirty again with your feet.’ This was 
the only claim the staircase and the maid-servant had to 
appearing in my dream. 

There was an internal connection between my running up 
the stairs and my spitting on the stairs. Pharyngitis as well as 
heart trouble are both regarded as punishments for the vice of 
smoking. And on account of that habit my reputation for tidi- 
ness was not of the highest with the authorities in my own house 
any more than in the other; so that the two were fused into 
one in the dream. 

I must postpone my further interpretation of this dream till ' 


I can explain the origin of the typical dream of being incom- 
pletely dressed. I will only point out as a provisional conclusion 
to be drawn from the present dream that a sensation of in- 
hibited movement in dreams is produced whenever the par- 
ticular context requires it. The cause of this part of the dream’s 
content cannot have been that some special modification in my 
powers of movement had occurred during my sleep, since only 
a moment earlier I had seen myself (almost as though to confirm 
this fact) running nimbly up the stairs.^ 

^ [The feeling of inhibition in dreams is discussed at length on 
p. 335 ff. The present dream is further analysed on p. 247 f. It was 
reported in a letter to Fliess of May 31, 1897. (Freud, 1950a, Letter 64.)] 



We are not in general in a position to interpret another 
person’s dream unless he is prepared to communicate to us the 
unconscious thoughts that lie behind its content. The practical 
applicability of our method of interpreting dreams is in con- 
sequence severely restricted.^ We have seen that, as a general 
rule, each person is at liberty to construet his dream-world 
according to his individual peculiarities and so to make it un- 
intelligible to other people. It now appears, however, that, in 
complete contrast to this, there are a certain number of dreams 
which almost everyone has dreamt alike and which we are 
accustomed to assume must have the same meaning for every- 
one, A special interest attaches, moreover, to these typical 
dreams because they presumably eirise from the same sources in 
every case and thus seem particularly well qualified to throw 
light on the sources of dreams. 

It is therefore with quite particular anticipations that we 
shall attempt to apply our technique of dream-interpretation to 
these typical dreams; and it is with great reluctance that we 
shall have to confess that our art disappoints our expectations 
precisely in relation to this material. If we attempt to interpret 
a typical dream, the dreamer fails as a rule to produce the 
associations which would in other cases have led us to under- 
stand it, or else his associations become obscure and insufficient 
so that we cannot solve our problem with their help. We shall 
learn in a later portion of this work [Section E of Chapter VI, 

^ [Footnote added 1925:] This assertion that our method of interpreting 
dreams cannot be applied unless we have access to the dreamer’s associa- 
tive material requires supplementing: our interpretative activity is in 
one instance independent of these associations — ^if, namely, the dreamer 
has employed symbolic elements in the content of the dream. In such 
cases we make use of what is, strictly speaking, a second and auxiliary 
method of dream-interpretation. (See below [p. 359 f.].) [In the edition of 
1911 only, the following footnote appeared at this point: ‘Apart from 
cases in which the dreamer makes use of symbols which are famili ar to 
us for the purpose of representing his latent dream-thoughts (see 

I.D, — ^iv 



p. 351 fF.] why this is so and how we can make up for this 
defect in our technique. My readers will also discover why it 
is that at the present point I am able to deal only with a few 
members of the group of typical dreams and must postpone my 
consideration of the rest until this later point in my discussion. 
[See p. 384 ff.]! 

(a) Embarrassing Dreams of Being Naked 

Dreams of being naked or insufficiently dressed in the pres- 
ence of strangers sometimes occur with the additional feature 
of there being a complete absence of any such feeling as shame 
on the dreamer’s part. We are only concerned here, however, 
with those dreams of being naked in which one does feel shame 
and embarrassment and tries to escape or hide, and is then 
overcome by a strange inhibition which prevents one from 
moving and makes one feel incapable of altering one’s distress- 
ing situation. It is only with this accompaniment that the dream 
is typical; without it, the gist of its subject-matter may be 
included in every variety of context or may be ornamented with 
individual trimmings. Its essence [in its typical form] lies in a 
distressing feeling in the nature of shame and in the fact that 
one wishes to hide one’s nakedness, as a rule by locomotion, but 
finds one is unable to do so. I believe the great majority of my 
readers will have found themselves in this situation in dreams. 

The nature of the undress involved is customarily far from 
clear. The dreamer may say T was in my chemise’, but this is 
rarely a distinct picture. The kind of undress is usually so vague 
that the description is expressed as an alternative: T was in my 
chemise or petticoat.’ As a rule the defect in the dreamer’s 
toilet is not so grave as to appear to justify the shame to which 
it gives rise. In the case of a man who has worn the Emperor’s 
uniform, nakedness is often replaced by some breach of the 
dress regulations; T was walking in the street without my sabre 
and saw some officers coming up’, or T was without my neck- 
tie’, or T was wearing civilian check trousers’, and so on. 

The people in whose presence one feels ashamed are almost 

1 [This paragraph in its present form dates from 1914. It was in the 
edition of that year (the fourth) that tlie section on symbolism was added 
to Chapter VI. This led to considerable alterations in the present 
section, much of the material in which was transferred to the new 
section. (See Editor’s Introduction, p. xiii.)] 



always strangers, with their features left indeterminate. In the 
typical dream it never happens that the clothing which causes 
one so much embarrassment is objected to or so much as 
noticed by the onlookers. On the contrary, they adopt in- 
different or (as I observed in one particularly clear dream) 
solemn and stiff expressions of face. This is a suggestive point. 

The embarrassment of the dreamer and the indifference of 
the onlookers offer us, when taken together, a contradiction of 
the kind that is so common in dreams. It would after all be more 
in keeping with the dreamer’s feelings if strangers looked at him 
in astonishment and derision or with indignation. But this 
objectionable feature of the situation has, I believe, been got 
rid of by wish-fulfilment, whereas some force has led to the 
retention of the other features; and the two portions of the 
dream are consequently out of harmony with each other. We 
possess an interesting piece of evidence that the dream in the 
form in which it appears — partly distorted by wish-fulfilment — 
has not been rightly understood. For it has become the basis of 
a fairy tale which is familiar to us all in Hans Andersen’s version. 
The Emperor's New Clothes, and which has quite recently been 
put into verse by Ludwig Fulda^ in his [‘dramatic fairy tale’] 
Der Talisman. Hans Andersen’s fairy tale tells us how two 
impostors weave the Emperor a costly garment which, they say, 
will be visible only to persons of virtue and loyalty. The 
Emperor walks out in this invisible garment, and all the spec- 
tators, intimidated by the fabric’s power to act as a touchstone, 
pretend not to notice the Emperor’s nakedness. 

This is just the situation in our dream. It is hardly rash 
to assume that the unintelligibility of the dream’s content as 
it exists in the memory has led to its being recast in a form 
designed to make sense of the situation. That situation, how- 
ever, is in the process deprived of its original meaning and put 
to extraneous uses. But, as we shall see later, it is a common 
thing for the conscious thought-activity of a second psychical 
system to misunderstand the content of a dream in this way, 
and this misunderstanding must be regarded as one of the 
factors in determining the final form assumed by dreams.* 

1 [German playwright, 1862-1939.] 

* [This process of ‘secondary revision’ forms the subject of Section I 
of Chapter VI (p. 488 ff.). Its application to this same fairy tale is dis- 
cussed in a letter to Fliess of July 7, 1897 (Freud, 1950a, Letter 66).] 


wishful contrary of ‘secrecy’.^ It is to be noticed that even in 
paranoia, where the original state of things is restored, this 
reversal into a contrary is observed. The subject feels that he 
is no longer alone, he has no doubt that he is being observed, 
but the observers are ‘a lot of strangers’ whose identity is left 
curiously vague. 

In addition to this, repression plays a part in dreams of 
exhibiting; for the distress felt in such dreams is a reaction on 
the part of the second system against the content of the scene of 
exhibiting having found expression in spite of the ban upon it. 
If the distress was to be avoided, the scene should never have 
been revived. 

We shall return later [p. 335 ff.] to the feeling of being 
inhibited. It serves admirably in dreams to represent a conflict 
in the will or a negative. The unconscious purpose requires the 
exhibiting to proceed; the censorship demands that it shall be 

There can be no doubt that the connections between our 
typical dreams and fairy tales and the material of other kinds 
of creative writing are neither few nor accidental. It sometimes 
happens that the sharp eye of a creative writer has an analytic 
reali 2 ation of the process of transformation of which he is 
habitually no more than the tool. If so, he may follow the 
process in a reverse direction and so trace back the imaginative 
writing to a dream. One of my friends has drawn my attention 
to the following passage in Gottfried Keller’s Der grime Heinrich 
[Part III, Chapter 2]: T hope, my dear Lee, that you may 
never learn from your own personal experience the peculiar and 
piquant truth of the plight of Odysseus when he appeared, naked 
and covered with mud, before the eyes of Nausicaa and her 
maidens! Shall I tell you how that can happen? Let us look into 
our example. If you are wandering about in a foreign land, far 
from your home and from all that you hold dear, if you have 
seen and heard many things, have known sorrow and care, and 
are wretched and forlorn, then without fail you will dream one 
night that you are coming nezir to your home; you will see it 
gleaming and shining in the fairest colours, and the sweetest, 
dearest and most beloved forms will move towards you. Then 

1 [This point is also mentioned towards the end of Freud’s paper on 
‘Screen Memories’ (1899a ). — Footnote added 1909:] For obvious reasons 
the presence of ‘the whole family’ in a dream has the same significance. 



suddenly you will become aware that you are in rags, naked 
and dusty. You will be seized with a nameless shame and dread, 
you will seek to find covering and to hide yourself, and you will 
awake bathed in sweat. This, so long as men breathe, is the 
dream of the unhappy wanderer; and Homer has evoked the 
picture of his plight from the deepest and eternal nature of 

The deepest and eternal nature of man, upon whose evoca- 
tion in his hearers the poet is accustomed to rely, lies in those 
impulses of the mind which have their roots in a childhood that 
has since become prehistoric. Suppressed and forbidden wishes 
from childhood break through in the dream behind the exile’s 
unobjectionable wishes which are capable of entering con- 
sciousness; and that is why the dream which finds concrete 
expression in the legend of Nausicaa ends as a rule as an 

My own dream (recorded on p. 238) of running upstairs and 
of soon afterwards finding myself glued to the steps was equally 
a dream of exhibiting, since it bears the essential marks of being 
one. It should be possible, therefore, to trace it back to experi- 
ences during my childhood, and if these could be discovered 
they should enable us to judge how far the maid-servant’s 
behaviour to me — her accusing me of dirtying the carpet — 
helped to give her her place in my dream. I can, as it happens, 
provide the necessary particulars. In a psycho-analysis one 
learns to interpret propinquity in time as representing con- 
nection in subject-matter. [See below, p. 314.] Two thoughts 
which occur in immediate sequence without any apparent con- 
nection are in fact part of a single unity which has to be 
discovered; in just the same way, if I write an ‘a’ and a ‘6’ 
in succession, they have to be pronounced as a single syllable 
‘ab’. The same is true of dreams. The staircase dream to which 
I have referred was one of a series of dreams; and I understood 
the interpretation of the other members of the series. Since this 
particular dream was surrounded by the others it must have 
dealt with the same subject. Now these other dreams were based 
on a recollection of a nurse in whose charge I had been from 
some date during my earliest infancy till I was two and a half. 
I even retain an obscure conscious memory of her. According 
to what I was told not long ago by my mother, she was old and 
ugly, but very sharp and efficient. From what I can infer firom 


my own dreams her treatment of me was not always excessive 
in its amiability and her words could be harsh if I failed to 
reach the required standard of cleanliness. And thus the maid- 
servant, since she had undertaken the job of carrying on this 
educational work, acquired the right to be treated in my dream 
as a reincarnation of the prehistoric old nurse. It is reasonable 
to suppose that the child loved the old woman who taught him 
these lessons, in spite of her rough treatment of him. ^ 

(j3) Dreams of the Death of Persons of whom the 
Dreamer is Fond 

Another group of dreams which may be described as typical 
are those containing the death of some loved relative — for 
instance, of a parent, of a brother or sister, or of a child. Two 
classes of such dreams must at once be distinguished: those in 
which the dreamer is unaffected by grief, so that on awakening 
he is astonished at his lack of feeling, and those in which the 
dreamer feels deeply pained by the death and may even weep 
bitterly in his sleep. 

We need not consider the dreams of the first of these classes, 
for they have no claim to be regarded as ‘typical’. If we analyse 
them, we find that they have some meaning other than their 
apparent one, and that they are intended to conceal some other 
wish. Such was the dream of the aunt who saw her sister’s only 
son lying in his coffin. (See p. 152.) It did not mean that she 
wished her little nephew dead; as we have seen, it merely con- 
cealed a wish to see a particular person of whom she was fond 
and whom she had not met for a long time — a person whom 
she had once before met after a similarly long interval beside 
the coffin of another nephew. This wish, which was the true 
content of the dream, gave no occasion for grief, and no grief, 
therefore, was felt in the dream. It will be noticed that the 
affect felt in the dream belongs to its latent and not to its 

^ Here is an ‘over-interpretation’ of the same dream. Since ‘spuken 
[haunting]’ is an activity oi spirits, 'spucken [spitting] on the stairs’ might 
be loosely rendered as 'esprit d’escalier’. This last phrase is equivalent to 
lack of ready repartee [‘Sclilagfsrtigkeit’, literally ‘readiness to strike’] — 
a failing to which I must in fact plead guilty. Was my nurse, I wonder, 
equally wanting in that quality? [This nurse is referred to at the end of 
Chapter IV of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (Freud, 1901^) and in 
greater detail in his letters to Fliess of October 3 and 4 and October 15, 
1897 (Freud, 1950a, Letters 70 and 71).] 



manifest content, and that the dream’s affective content has re- 
mained untouched by tiie distortion which has overtaken its 
ideational content.’- 

Very different are the dreams of the other class — those in 
which the dreamer imagines the death of a loved relative and 
is at the same time painfully affected. The meaning of such 
dreams, as their content indicates, is a wish that the person in 
question may die. And since I must expect that the feelings of 
all of my readers and any others who have experienced similar 
dreams will rebel against my assertion, I must try to base my 
evidence for it on the broadest possible foundation. 

I have already discussed a dream which taught us that the 
wishes which are represented in dreams as fulfilled are not 
always present-day wishes. They may also be wishes of the past 
which have been abandoned, overlaid and repressed, and to 
which we have to attribute some sort of continued existence 
only because of their re-emergence in a dream. They are not 
dead in our sense of the word but only like the shades in the 
Odyssey, which awoke to some sort of life as soon as they had 
tasted blood. In the dream of tlie dead child in the ‘case’ 
(p. 154) what was involved was a wish which had been an 
immediate one fifteen years earlier and was frankly admitted 
as having existed at that time. I may add — and this may not 
be without its bearing upon the theory of dreams — that even 
behind this wish there lay a memory from the dreamer’s earliest 
childhood. When she was a small child — the exact date could 
not be fixed with certainty — she had heard that her mother 
had fallen into a deep depression during the pregnancy of 
which she had been the fruit and had passionately wished that 
the child she was bearing might die. When the dreamer herself 
was grown-up and pregnant, she merely followed her mother’s 

If anyone dreams, with every sign of pain, that his father or 
mother or brother or sister has died, I should never use the 
dream as evidence that he wishes for that person’s death at the 
present time. The theory of dreams does not require as much as 
that; it is satisfied with the inference that this death has been 
wished for at some time or other during the dreamer’s child- 
hood. I fear, however, that this reservation will not appease the 

1 [See the discussion on affects in dreams in Chapter VII, Section H 
(especially p. 463).] 


objectors; they will deny the possibility of their ever having had 
such a thought w'ith just as much energy as they insist that they 
harbour no such wishes now. I must therefore reconstruct a 
portion of the vanished mental life of children on the basis of 
the evidence of the present.^ 

Let us first consider the relation of children to their brothers 
and sisters. I do not know why we presuppose that that relation 
must be a loving one; for instances of hostility between adult 
brothers and sisters force themselves upon everyone’s experience 
and we can often establish the fact that the disunity originated 
in childhood or has always existed. But it is further true that a 
great many adults, who are on affectionate terms with their 
brothers and sisters and are ready to stand by them to-day, 
passed their childhood on almost unbroken terms of enmity 
with them. The elder child ill-treats the younger, maligns him 
and robs him of his toys; while the younger is consumed with 
impotent rage against the elder, envies and fears him, or meets 
his oppressor with the first stirrings of a love of liberty and a 
sense of justice. Their parents complain that the children do 
not get on with one another, but cannot discover why. It is 
easy to see that the character of even a good child is not what 
we should wish to find it in an adult. Children are completely 
egoistic; they feel their needs intensely and strive ruthlessly to 
satisfy them — especially as against the rivals, other children, 
and first and foremost as against their brothers and sisters. But 
we do not on that account call a child ‘bad’, we call him 
‘naughty’; he is no more answerable for his evil deeds in our 
judgement than in the eyes of the law. And it is right that this 
should be so; for we may expect that, before the end of the 
period which we count as childhood, altruistic impulses and 
morality will awaken in the little egoist and (to use Meynert’s 
terms [e.g. 1892, 169 ff.]) a secondary ego will overlay and 
inhibit the primary one. It is true, no doubt, that morality does 
not set in simultaneously all along the line and that the length 
of non-moral childhood varies in different individuals. If this 
morality fails to develop, we like to talk of ‘degeneracy’, though 
what in fact faces us is an inhibition in development. After the 

1 \Footru)te added 1909:] Cf. my ‘Analysis of a Phobia in a Five-Year- 
Old Boy’ (19096) and my paper ‘On the Sexual Theories of Children’ 



primary character has already been overlaid by later develop- 
ment, it can still be laid bare again, at all events in part, in cases 
of hysterical illness. There is a really striking resemblance 
between what is known as the hysterical character and that of a 
naughty child. Obsessional neurosis, on the contrary, corre- 
sponds to a super-morality imposed as a reinforcing weight upon 
fresh stirrings of the primary character. 

Many people, therefore, who love their brothers and sisters 
and would feel bereaved if they were to die, harbour evil wishes 
against them in their unconscious, dating from earlier times; 
and these are capable of being realized in dreams. 

It is of quite particular interest, however, to observe the 
behaviour of small children up to the age of two or three or a 
little older towards their younger brothers and sisters. Here, for 
instance, was a child who had so far been the only one; and now 
he was told that the stork had brought a new baby. He looked 
the new arrival up and down and then declared decisively: ‘The 
stork can take him away again!’^ I am quite seriously of the 
opinion that a child can form a just estimate of the set-back he 
has to expect at the hands of the little stranger. A lady of my 
acquaintance, who is on very good terms to-day with a sister 
four years her junioi-, tells me that she greeted the news of her 
first arrival with this qualification: ‘But all the same I shan’t 
give her my red cap!’ Even if a child only comes to realize the 
situation later on, Iiis hostility will date from that moment. I 
know of a case in which a little girl of less than three tried to 
strangle an infant in its cradle because she felt that its continued 
presence boded her no good. Children at that time of life are 
capable of jealousy of any degree of intensity and obviousness. 
Again, if it should happen that the baby sister does in fact 
disappear after a short while, the elder child will find the whole 
affection of the household once more concentrated upon him- 
self. If after that the stork should bring yet another baby, it 

1 [Foottwte added 1909:] The three-and-a-half-year-old Hans (whose 
phobia was the subject of the analysis mentioned in the preceding foot- 
note) exclaimed shortly after the birth of a sister, while he was suffering 
from a feverish sore throat: T don’t want a baby sister!’ [Freud, 19096, 
Section I.] During his neurosis eighteen months later he frankly con- 
fessed to a wish that his mother might drop the baby into the bath so 
that she would die. [Ibid., Section II (April 11).] At the same time, 
Hans was a good-natured and affectionate child, who soon grew fond 
of this same sister and particularly enjoyed taking her under his wing.' 



seems only logical that the little favourite should nourish a 
wish that his new competitor may meet with the same fate as 
the earlier one, so that he himself may be as happy as he was 
originally and during the interval.^ Normally, of course, this 
attitude of a child towards a younger brother or sister is a simple 
function of the difference betw'een their ages. Where the gap in 
time is sufficiently long, an elder girl will already begin to feel 
the stirring of her maternal instincts towards the helpless new- 
born baby. 

Hostile feelings towards brothers and sisters must be far more 
frequent in childhood than the unseeing eye of the adult 
observer can perceive.* 

In the case of my own children, who followed each other in 
rapid succession, I neglected the opportunity of carrying out 
observations of this kind; but I am now making up for this 
neglect by observing a small nephew, whose autocratic rule was 
upset, after lasting for fifteen months, by the appearance of a 
female rival. I am told, it is true, that the young man behaves 
in the most chivalrous manner to his little sister, that he kisses 
her hand and strokes her; but I have been able to convince 
myself that even before the end of his second year he made use 
of his powers of speech for the purpose of criticizing someone 
whom he could not fail to regard as superfluous. Whenever the 
conversation touched upon her he used to intervene in it and 
exclaim petulantly: ‘Too ’ickle! too ’ickle!’ During the last few 

1 {Footnote added 1914:] Deaths that are experienced in this way in 
childhood may quickly be forgotten in the family; but psycho-analytic 
research shows that they have a very important influence on subsequent 

* [Footnote added 1914:] Since this was written, a large number of 
observations have been made and recorded in the literature of psycho- 
analysis upon the originally hostile attitude of children towards their 
brothers and sisters and one of their parents. The [Swiss] author and 
poet Spitteler has given us a particularly genuine and naive account of 
this childish attitude, derived from his own childhood [1914, 40]: 
‘Moreover there was a second Adolf there: a little creature who they 
alleged was my brother, though I could not see what use he was and 
still less why they made as much fuss of him as of me myself. I was 
sufficient so far as I was concerned; why should I want a brother? And 
he was not merely useless, he was positively in the way. When I pestered 
my grandmother, he wanted to {jester her too. When I was taken out in 
the perambulator, he sat opposite to me and took up half the space, so 
that we were bound to kick each other with our feet.’ 



months the baby’s growth has made enough progress to place 
her beyond this particular ground for contempt, and the little 
boy has found a different basis for his assertion that she does not 
deserve so much attention: at every suitable opportunity he 
draws attention to the fact that she has no teeth. ^ We all of us 
recollect how the eldest girl of another of my sisters, who was 
then a child of six, spent half-an-hour in insisting upon each of 
her aunts in succession agreeing with her: ‘Lucie can’t under- 
stand that yet, can she?’ she kept asking. Lucie was her rival 
— two and a half years her jmiior. 

In none of my women patients, to take an example, have I 
failed to come upon this dream of the death of a brother or 
sister, which tallies with an increase in hostility. I have only 
found a single exception; and it was easy to interpret this as a 
confirmation of the rule. On one occasion during an analytic 
session I was explaining this subject to a lady, since in view of 
her symptom its discussion seemed to me relevant. To my 
astonishment she replied that she had never had such a dream. 
Another dream, however, occurred to her, which ostensibly had 
no connection with the topic — a dream which she had first 
dreamt when she was four years old and at that time the 
youngest of the family, and which she had dreamt repeatedly 
since: A whole crowd of children — all her brothers^ sisters and cousins 
of both sexes — were romping in a field. Suddenly they all grew wings, 
fiew away and disappeared. She had no idea what this dream meant; 
but it is not hard to recognize that in its original form it had 
been a dream of the death of all her brothers and sisters, and 
had been only slightly influenced by the censorship. I may 
venture to suggest the following analysis. On the occasion of the 
death of one of this crowd of children (in this instance the 
children of two brothers had been brought up together as a 
single family) the dreamer, not yet four years old at the time, 
must have asked some wise grown-up person what became of 
children when they were dead. The reply must have been: 
‘They grow wings and turn into litde angels.’ In the dream 
which followed upon this piece of information all the dreamer’s 
brothers and sisters had wings like angels and — ^which is the 

^ \Footnote added 1909:] Little Hans, when he was three and a half, 
gave vent to a crushing criticism of his sister in the same words. It was 
because of her lack of teeth, he supposed, tiiat she was unable to talk. 
[Freud, 19096, Section I.] 


main point — flew away. Our little baby-killer was left alone, 
strange to say: the only surviver of the whole crowd! We can 
hardly be wrong in supposing that the fact of the children 
romping in a field before flying away points to butterflies. It is 
as though the child was led by the same chain of thought as the 
peoples of antiquity to picture the soul as having a butterfly’s 

At this point someone will perhaps interrupt: ‘Granted that 
children have hostile impulses towards their brothers and sisters, 
how can a child’s mind reach such a pitch of depravity as to 
wish for the death of his rivals or of playmates stronger than 
himself, as though the death penalty were the only punishment 
for every crime?’ Anyone who talks like this has failed to bear 
in mind that a child’s idea of being ‘dead’ has nothing much in 
common with ours apart from the word. Children know nothing 
of the horrors of corruption, of freezing in the ice-cold grave, of 
the terrors of eternal nothingness — ideas which grown-up people 
find it so hard to tolerate, as is proved by all the myths of a 
future life. The fear of death has no meaning to a child; hence 
it is that he will play with the dreadful word and use it as a 
threat against a playmate: ‘If you do that again, you’ll die, like 
Franz!’ Meanwhile the poor mother gives a shudder and re- 
members, perhaps, that the greater half of the human race fail 
to survive their childhood years. It was actually possible for a 
child, who was over eight years old at the time, coming home 
from a visit to the Natural History Museum, to say to his 
mother: ‘I’m so fond of you, Mummy: when you die I’ll have 
you stuffed and I’ll keep you in this room, so that I can see you 
all the time.’ So little resemblance is there between a child’s 
idea of being dead and our own!^ 

To children, who, moreover, are spared the sight of the 
scenes of suffering which precede death, being ‘dead’ means 
approximately the same as being ‘gone’ — ^not troubling the sur- 
vivors any longer. A child makes no distinction as to how this 
absence is brought about: v/hether it is due to a journey, to a 

‘ [Footnote added 1909:] I was astonished to hear a highly intelligent 
boy of ten remark after the sudden death of his father: ‘I know father’s 
dead, but what I can’t understand is why he doesn’t come home to 
supper .’ — [Added 1919:] Further material on this subject will be found 
in the first [seven] volumes of the periodical Imago [1912-21], under the 
standing rubric of ‘ Vom wahren Wesen der Kinderseele' [‘The True Nature 
of the Child Mind’], edited by Frau Dr. H. von Hug-Hellmuth. 



-dismissal, to an estrangement, or to death. ^ If, during a child’s 
prehistoric epoch, his nurse has been dismissed, and if soon 
afterwards his mother has died, the two events are superimposed 
on each other in a single series in his memory as revealed in 
analysis. When people are absent, children do not miss them 
with any great intensity; many mothers have learnt this to their 
sorrow when, after being away from home for some weeks on a 
summer holiday, they are met on their return by the news that 
the children have not once asked after their mummy. If their 
mother does actually make the journey to that ‘undiscover’d 
country, from whose bourn no traveller returns’, children seem 
at first to have forgotten her, and it is only later on that they 
begin to call their dead mother to mind. 

Thus if a child has reasons for wishing the absence of another, 
there is nothing to restrain him from giving his wish the form 
of the other child being dead. And the psychical reaction to 
dreams containing death-wishes proves that, in spite of the 
different content of these wishes in the case of children, they are 
nevertheless in some way or other the same as wishes expressed 
in the same terms by adults.* 

If, then, a child’s death-wishes against his brothers and sisters 
are explained by the childish egoism which makes him regard 
them as his rivals, how are we to explain his death-wishes 
against his parents, who surround him with love and fulfil his 
needs and whose preservation that same egoism should lead him 
to desire? 

1 [Footnote added 1919:] An observation made by a parent who had a 
knowledge of psycho-analysis caught the actual moment at which his 
highly intelligent four-year-old daughter perceived the distinction 
between being ‘gone’ and being ‘dead’. The little girl had been trouble- 
some at meal-time and noticed that one of the maids at the pension 
where they were staying was looking at her askance. ‘I wish Josefine was 
dead,’ was the child’s comment to her father. ‘Why dead?’ enquired her 
father soothingly; ‘wouldn’t it do if she went away?’ ‘No,’ replied the 
child; ‘then she’d come back ag;ain.’ The unbounded self-love (the nar- 
cissism) of children regards any interference as an act of Use majeste-, and 
their feelings demand (like the Draconian code) that any such crime shall 
receive the one form of punishment which admits of no degrees. 

® [The adult attitude to death is discussed by Freud more particu- 
larly in the second essay of his Totem and Taboo (1912-13), Section 3(e), 
in his paper on ‘The Three Caskets’ (1913/) and in the second patt of 
his ‘Thoughts on War and Death’ (19156).] 


A solution of this difficulty is afforded by the observation that 
dreams of the death of parents apply with preponderant fre- 
quency to the parent who is of the same sex as the dreamer: 
that men, that is, dream mostly of their father’s death and 
women of their mother’s. I cannot pretend that this is univer- 
sally so, but the preponderance in the direction I have indicated 
is so evident that it requires to be explained by a factor of 
general importance, ^ It is as though — to put it bluntly — a sexual 
preference were making itself felt at an early age: as though boys 
regarded their fathers and girls their mothers as their rivals in 
love, whose elimination could not fail to be to their advantage. 

Before this idea is rejected as a monstrous one, it is as well in 
this case, too, to consider the real relations obtaining — this time 
between parents and children. We must distinguish between 
what the cultural standards of filial piety demand of this rela- 
tion and what everyday observation shows it in fact to be. 
More than one occasion for hostility lies concealed in the rela- 
tion between parents and children — a relation which affords the 
most ample opportunities for wishes to arise which cannot pass 
the censorship. 

Let us consider first the relation between father and son. The 
sanctity which we attribute to the rules laid down in the 
Decalogue has, I think, blunted our powers of perceiving the 
real facts. We seem scarcely to venture to observe that the 
majority of mankind disobey the Fifth Commandment. Alike in 
the lowest and in the highest strata of human society filial piety 
is wont to give way to other interests. The obscure information 
which is brought to us by mythology and legend from the 
primaeval ages of human society gives an unpleasing pictui'e of 
the father’s despotic power and of the ruthlessness with which 
he made use of it. Kronos devoured his children, just as the 
wild boar devours the sow’s litter; while Zeus emasculated his 
father® and made himself ruler in his place. The more un- 

^ [Footnote added 1925:] The situation is often obscured by the emer- 
gence of a self-punitive impulse, which threatens the dreamer, by way 
of a moral reaction, with the loss of the parent whom he loves. 

® [Footnote added 1909:] Or so he is reported to have done according to 
some myths. According to others, emeisculation was only carried out by 
Kronos on his father Uranus. [This passage is discussed in Chapter X (3) 
oi The Psychopathology of Everyday Life (Freud, 19015).] For the mytho- 
logical significance of this theme, cf.Rank, 1909, [a(W«dl914:] and Rank, 
1912c, Chapter IX, Section 2 . — [These sentences in the text are, of course, 



restricted was the rule of the father in the ancient family, the 
more must the son, as his destined successor, have found himself 
in the position of an enemy, and the more impatient must he 
have been to become ruler himself through his father’s death. 
Even in our middle-class families fathers are as a rule inclined 
to refuse their sons independence and the means necessary to 
secure it and thus to foster the growth of the germ of hostility 
which is inherent in their relation. A physician will often be in 
a position to notice how a son’s grief at the loss of his father 
cannot suppress his satisfaction at having at length won his 
freedom. In our society to-day fathers are apt to cling des- 
perately to what is left of a now sadly antiquated potestas partis 
familias', and an author who, like Ibsen, brings the immemorial 
struggle between fathers and sons into prominence in his writ- 
ings may be certain of producing his effect. 

Occasions for conflict between a daughter and her mother 
arise when the daughter begins to grow up and long for sexual 
liberty, but finds herself under her mother’s tutelage; while the 
mother, on the other hand, is warned by her daughter’s growth 
that the time has come when she herself must abandon her 
claims to sexual satisfaction. 

All of this is patent to the eyes of everyone. But it does not 
help us in our endeavour to explain dreams of a parent’s death 
in people whose piety towards their parents has long been un- 
impeachably established. Previous discussions, moreover, will 
have prepared us to learn that the death-wish against parents 
dates back to earliest childhood. 

This supposition is confirmed with a certainty beyond all 
doubt in the case of psychoneurotics when they are subjected 
to analysis. We learn from them that a child’s sexual wishes 
— if in their embryonic stage they deserve to be so described — 
awaken very early, and that a girl’s first affection is for her 
father^ and a boy’s first childish desires are for his mother. 
Accordingly, the father becomes a disturbing rival to the boy 
and the mother to the girl; and I have already shown in the 
case of brothers and sisters how easily such feelings can lead 
to a death-wish. The parents too give evidence as a rule of 

an early hint at the line of thought developed later by Freud in his 
Totem and 7a£oo (1912-13).] 

^ [Freud’s views on this point were later modified. Cf. Freud, 192^' 
and 1931i.] 

I.D. IV. T 


sexual partiality: a natural predilection usually sees to it that 
a man tends to spoil his little daughters, while his wife takes 
her sons’ part; though both of them, where their judgement is 
not disturbed by the magic of sex, keep a strict eye upon their 
children’s education. The child is very well aware of this 
partiality and turns against that one of his parents who is 
opposed to showing it. Being loved by an adult does not merely 
bring a child the satisfaction of a special need; it also means that 
he will get what he wants in every other respect as well. Thus he 
will be following his own sexual instinct and at the same time 
giving fresh strength to the inclination shown by his parents if 
his choice between them falls in with theirs. 

The signs of these infantile preferences are for the most part 
overlooked; yet some of them are to be observed even after the 
first years of childhood. An eight-year-old girl of my acquaint- 
ance, if her mother is called away from the table, makes use of 
the occasion to proclaim herself her successor: ‘/’m going to be 
Mummy now. Do you want some more greens, Karl? Well, help 
yourself, then!’ and so on. A particularly gifted and lively girl 
of four, in whom this piece of child psychology is especially 
transparent, declared quite openly: ‘Mummy can go away now. 
Then Daddy must marry me and I’ll be his wife.’ Such a wish 
occurring in a child is not in the least inconsistent with her being 
tenderly attached to her mother. If a little boy is allowed to 
sleep beside his mother when his father is away from home, but 
has to go back to the nursery and to someone of whom he is far 
less fond as soon as his father returns, he may easily begin to 
form a wish that his father should always be away, so that he 
himself could keep his place beside his dear, lovely Mummy. 
One obvious way of attaining this wish would be if his father 
were dead; for the child has learnt one thing by experience — 
namely that ‘dead’ people, such as Grandaddy, are always 
away and never come back. 

Though observations of this kind on small children fit in per- 
fectly with the interpretation I have proposed, they do not carry 
such complete conviction as is forced upon the physician by 
psycho-analyses of adult neurotics. In the latter case dreams of 
the sort we are considering are introduced into the analysis in 
such a context that it is impossible to avoid interpreting them as 
wishful dreams. 



One day one of my women patients was in a distressed and 
tearful mood. ‘I don’t want ever to see my relations again,’ she 
said, ‘they must think me horrible.’ She then went on, with 
almost no transition, to say that she remembered a dream, 
though of course she had no idea what it meant. When she was 
four years old she had a dream that a lynx or fox^ was walking on 
the roof; then something had fallen down or she had fallen down; and 
then her mother was carried out of the house dead — and she wept 
bitterly. I told her that this dream must mean that when she 
was a child she had wished she could see her mother dead, and 
that it must be on account of the dream that she felt her rela- 
tions must think her horrible. I had scarcely said this when she 
produced some material which threw light on the dream. ‘Lynx- 
eye’ was a term of abuse that had been thrown at her by a 
street-urchin when she was a very small child. When she was 
three years old, a tile off the roof had fallen on her mother’s 
head and made it bleed violently. 

I once had an opportunity of making a detailed study of a 
young woman who passed through a variety of psychical con- 
ditions. Her illness began with a state of conflisional excitement 
during which she displayed a quite special aversion to her 
mother, hitting and abusing her whenever she came near her 
bed, while at the same period she was docile and affectionate 
towards a sister who was many years her senior. This was 
followed by a state in which she was lucid but somewhat 
apathetic and suffered from badly disturbed sleep. It was during 
this phase that I began treating her and analysing her dreams. 
An immense number of these dreams were concerned, with a 
greater or less degree of disguise, with the death of her mother: 
at one time she would be attending an old woman’s funeral, at 
another she and her sister would be sitting at table dressed in 
mourning. There could be no question as to the meaning of 
these dreams. As her condition improved still further, hysterical 
phobias developed. The most tormenting of these was a fear 
that something might have happened to her mother. She was 
obliged to hurry home, wherever she might be, to convince her- 
self that her mother was still alive. This case, taken in con- 
junction with what I had learnt from other soiurces, was highly 
instructive: it exhibited, translated as it were into different 

1 [The German names for these animals are very much alike: ‘Luehf 
and ‘Fuchs'. '\ 


languages, the various ways in which the psychical apparatus 
reacted to one and the same exciting idea. In the confusional 
state, in which, as I believe, the second psychical agency was 
overwhelmed by the normally suppressed first one, her uncon- 
scious hostility to her mother found a powerful motor expression. 
When the calmer condition set in, when the rebellion w'as sup- 
pressed and the domination of the censorship re-established, the 
only region left open in which her hostility could realize the 
wish for her mother’s death was that of dreaming. When a 
normal state was still more firmly established, it led to the pro- 
duction of her exaggerated worry about her mother as a 
hysterical counter-reaction and defensive phenomenon. In view 
of this it is no longer hard to understand why hysterical girls 
are so often attached to their mothers with such exaggerated 

On another occasion I had an opportunity of obtaining a 
deep insight into the unconscious mind of a young man whose 
life was made almost impossible by an obsessional neurosis. He 
was unable to go out into the street because he was tortured by 
the fear that he would kill everyone he met. He spent his days 
in preparing his alibi in case he might be charged with one of 
the murders committed in the town. It is unnecessary to add 
that he was a man of equally high morals and education. The 
analysis (which, incidentally, led to his recovery) showed that 
the basis of this distressing obsession was an impulse to murder 
his somewhat over-severe father. This impulse, to his astonish- 
ment, had been consciously expressed when he was seven years 
old, but it had, of course, originated much earlier in his child- 
hood. After his father’s painful illness and death, the patient’s 
obsessional self-reproaches appeared — he was in his thirty-first 
year at the time — taking the shape of a phobia transferred on 
to strangers. A person, he felt, who was capable of wanting to 
push his own father over a precipice from the top of a mountain 
was not to be trusted to respect the lives of those less closely 
related to him; he was quite right to shut himself up in his room.^ 

In my experience, which is already extensive, the chief part 
in the mental lives of all children who later become psycho- 
neurotics is played by their parents. Being in love with the one 
parent and hating the other are among the essential constituents 
[This patient is referred to again on p. 457.] 



of the Stock of psychical impulses which is formed at that time 
and which is of such importance in determining the symptoms 
of the later neurosis. It is not my belief, however, that psycho- 
neurotics differ sharply in this respect from other human beings 
who remain normal — that they are able, that is, to create some- 
thing absolutely new and peculiar to themselves. It is far more 
probable — and this is confirmed by occasional observations on 
normal children — that they are only distinguished by exhibiting 
on a magnified scale feelings of love and hatred to their parents 
which occur less obviously and less intensely in the minds of most 

This discovery is confirmed by a legend that has come down 
to us from classical antiquity: a legend whose profound and 
universal power to move can only be understood if the hypo- 
thesis I have put forward in regard to the psychology of children 
has an equally universal validity. What I have in mind is the 
legend of King Oedipus and Sophocles’ drama which bears his 

Oedipus, son of Laius, King of Thebes, and of Jocasta, was 
exposed as an infant because an oracle had warned Laius that 
the still unborn child would be his father’s murderer. The child 
was rescued, and grew up as a prince in an alien court, until, in 
doubts as to his origin, he too questioned the oracle and was 
warned to avoid his home since he was destined to murder his 
father and take his mother in marriage. On the road leading 
away from what he believed was his home, he met King Laius 
and slew him in a sudden quarrel. He came next to Thebes and 
solved the riddle set him by the Sphinx who barred his way. 
Out of gratitude the Thebans made him their king and gave 
him Jocasta’s hand in marriage. He reigned long in peace and 
honour, and she who, unknown to him, was his mother bore 
him two sons and two daughters. Then at last a plague broke 
out and the Thebans made enquiry once more of the oracle. 
It is at this point that Sophocles’ tragedy opens. The messengers 
bring back the reply that the plague will cease when the 
murderer of Laius has been driven from the land. 

But he, where is he? Where shall now be read 

The fading record of this ancient guilt?^ 

The action of the play consists in nothing other than the process 
^ [Lewis Campbell’s translation (1883), line 108 f.] 


of revealing, with cunning delays and ever-mounting excite- 
ment — a process that can be likened to the work of a psycho- 
analysis — that Oedipus himself is the murderer of Laius, but 
further that he is the son of the murdered man and of Jocasta. 
Appalled at the abomination which he has unwittingly per- 
petrated, Oedipus blinds himself and forsakes his home. The 
oracle has been fulfilled. 

Oedipus Rex is what is known as a tragedy of destiny. Its 
tragic effect is said to lie in the contrast between the supreme 
will of the gods and the vain attempts of mankind to escape the 
evil that threatens them. The lesson which, it is said, the deeply 
moved spectator should learn from the tragedy is submission to 
the divine will and realization of his own impotence. Modern 
dramatists have accordingly tried to achieve a similar tragic 
effect by weaving the same contrast into a plot invented by 
themselves. But the spectators have looked on unmoved while 
a curse or an oracle was fulfilled in spite of all the efforts of some 
innocent man; later tragedies of destiny have failed in their 

If Oedipus Rex moves a modern audience no less than it did 
the contemporary Greek one, the explanation can only be that 
its effect does not lie in the contrast between destiny and human 
will, but is to be looked for in tlie particular nature of the 
material on which that contrast is exemplified. There must be 
something which makes a voice within us ready to recognize the 
compelling force of destiny in the Oedipus, while we can dismiss 
as merely arbitrary such dispositions as are laid down in [Grill- 
parzer’s] Die Ahnfrau or other modern tragedies of destiny. And 
a factor of this kind is in fact involved in the story of King 
Oedipus. His destiny moves us only because it might have been 
ours — because the oracle laid the same curse upon us before our 
birth as upon him. It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct 
our first sexual impulse towards our mother and our first hatred 
and our first murderous wish against our father. Our dreams 
convince us that that is so. King Oedipus, who slew his father 
Laius and married his mother Jocasta, merely shows us the 
fulfilment of our own childhood wishes. But, more fortunate 
than he, we have meanwhile succeeded, in so far as we have 
not become psychoneurotics, in detaching our sexual impulses 
from our mothers and in forgetting our jealousy of our fathers. 
Here is one in whom these primaeval wishes of our childhood 



have been fulfilled, and we shrink back from him with the whole 
force of the repression by which those wishes have since that 
time been held down within us. While the poet, as he unravels 
the past, brings to light the guilt of Oedipus, he is at the same 
time compelling us to recognize our own inner minds, in which 
those same impulses, though suppressed, are still to be found. 
The contrast with which the closing Chorus leaves us con- 
fronted — 

. . . Fix on Oedipus your eyes. 

Who resolved the dark enigma, noblest champion and most wise. 
Like a star his envied fortune mounted beaming far and wide: 

Now he sinks in seas of anguish, whelmed beneath a raging tide . . 

— strikes as a warning at ourselves and our pride, at us who 
since our childhood have grown so wise and so mighty in our 
own eyes. Like Oedipus, we live in ignorance of these wishes, 
repugnant to morality, which have been forced upon us by 
Nature, and after their revelation we may all of us well seek to 
close our eyes to the scenes of our childhood.® 

There is an unmistakable indication in the text of Sophocles’ 
tragedy itself that the legend of Oedipus sprang from some 
primaeval dream-material which had as its content the dis- 
tressing disturbance of a child’s relation to his parents owing to 

1 [Lewis Campbell’s translation, line 1524 ff.] 

® [Footnote added 1914:] None of the findings of psycho-analytic 
research has provoked such embittered denials, such fierce opposition — 
or such amusing contortions — on the part of critics as this indication of 
the childhood impulses towards incest which persist in the unconscious. 
An attempt has even been made recently to make out, in the face of all 
experience, that the incest should only be taken as ‘symbolic’. — Fer- 
enczi (1912) has proposed an ingenious ‘over-interpretation’ of the 
Oedipus myth, based on a passage in one of Schopenhauer’s letters. — 
[Added 1919:] Later studies have shown that the ‘Oedipus complex’ 
which was touched upon for the first time in the above paragraphs in 
the Interpretation of Dreams, throws a light of undreamt-of importance on 
the history of the human race and the evolution of religion and moral- 
ity. (See my Totem and Taboo, 1912-13 [Essay IV].) — [Actually the 
gist of this discussion of the Oedipus complex and of the Oedipus Rex, as 
well as of what follows on the subject of Hamlet, had already been put 
forward by Freud in a letter to Fliess as early as October 15th, 1897. 
(See Freud, 1950a, Letter 71.) A still earlier hint at the discovery of the 
Oedipus complex was included in a letter of May 31st, 1897. (Ibid., 
Draft N.) — The actual term ‘Oedipus complex’ seems to have been first 
used by Freud in his published writings in the first of his ‘Contributions 
to the Psychology of Love’ (1910A).] 


the first stirrings of sexuality. At a point when Oedipus, though 
he is not yet enlightened, has begun to feel troubled by his 
recollection of the oracle, Jocasta consoles him by referring to 
a dream which many people dream, though, as she thinks, it 
has no meaning: 

Many a man ere now in dreams hath lain 

With her who bare him. He hath least annoy 

Who with such omens troubleth not his mind.^ 

To-day, just as then, many men dream of having sexual rela- 
tions with their mothers, and speak of the fact with indignation 
and astonishment. It is clearly the key to the tragedy and the 
complement to the dream of the dreamer’s father being dead. 
The story of Oedipus is the reaction of the imagination to these 
two typical dreams. And just as these dreams, when dreamt by 
adults, are accompanied by feelings of repulsion, so too the 
legend must include horror and self-punishment. Its further 
modification originates once again in a misconceived secondary 
revision of the matei'ial, which has sought to exploit it for 
theological purposes. (Cf. the dream-material in dreams of 
exhibiting, p. 243 f.) The attempt to harmonize divine omnipo- 
tence with human responsibility must naturally fail in connection 
with this subject-matter just as with any other. 

Another of the great creations of tragic poetry, Shakespeare’s 
Hamlet, has its roots in the same soil as Oedipus Rex.^ But the 
changed treatment of the same material reveals the whole 
difference in the mental life of these two widely separated 
epochs of civilization: the secular advance of repression in the 
emotional life of mankind. In the Oedipus the child’s wishful 
phantasy that underlies it is brought into the open and realized 
as it would be in a dream. In Hamlet it remains repressed; and 
— just as in the case of a neurosis — ^we only learn of its existence 
from its inhibiting consequences. Strangely enough, the over- 
whelming effect produced by the more modern tragedy has 
turned out to be compatible with the fact that people have 
remained completely in the dark as to the hero’s character. 
The play is built up on Hamlet’s hesitations over fulfilling the 
task of revenge that is assigned to him; but its text offers no 

^ [Lewis Campbell’s translation, line 982 ff.] 

’ [This paragraph was printed as a footnote in the first edition (1900) 
and included in the text from 1914 onward.] 



reasons or motives for these hesitations and an immense variety 
of attempts at interpreting them have failed to produce a result. 
According to the view which was originated by Goethe and is 
still the prevailing one to-day, Hamlet represents the type of 
man whose power of direct action is paralysed by an excessive 
development of his intellect. (He is ‘sicklied o’er with the pale 
cast of thought’.) According to another view, the dramatist has 
tried to portray a pathologically irresolute character which 
might be classed as neurasthenic. The plot of the drama shows 
us, however, that Hamlet is far from being represented as a 
person incapable of taking any action. We see him doing so on 
two occasions; first in a sudden outburst of temper, when he 
runs his sword through the eavesdropper behind the arras, and 
secondly in a premeditated and even crafty fashion, when, with 
all the callousness of a Renaissance prince, he sends the two 
courtiers to the death that had been planned for himself. What 
is it, then, that inhibits him in fulfilling the task set him by his 
father’s ghost? The answer, once again, is that it is the peculiar 
nature of the task. Hamlet is able to do anything — except take 
vengeance on the man who did away with his father and took 
that father’s place with his mother, the man who shows him the 
repressed wishes of his own childhood realized. Thus the loath- 
ing which should drive him on to revenge is replaced in him by 
self-reproaches, by scruples of conscience, which remind him 
that he himself is literally no better than the sinner whom he is 
to punish. Here I have translated into conscious terms what 
was bound to remain unconscious in Hamlet’s mind; and if any- 
one is inclined to call him a hysteric, I can only accept the fact 
as one that is implied by my interpretation. The distaste for 
sexuality expressed by Hamlet in his conversation with Ophelia 
fits in very well with this: the same distaste which was destined 
to take possession of the poet’s mind more and more during the 
years that followed, and which reached its extreme expression 
in Timon of Athens. For it can of course only be the poet’s own 
mind which confronts us in Hamlet. I observe in a book on 
Shakespeare by Georg Brandes (1896) a statement that Hamlet 
was written immediately after the death of Shakespeare’s father 
(in 1601), that is, under the immediate impact of his bereave- 
ment and, as we may well assume, while his childhood feelings 
about his father had been freshly revived. It is known, too, that 
Shakespeare’s own son who died at an early age bore the name 


of ‘Hamnet’, which is identical with ‘Hamlet’. Just as Hamlet 
deals with the relation of a son to his parents, so Macbeth (written 
at approximately the same period) is concerned with the subject 
of childlessness. But just as all neurotic symptoms, and, for that 
matter, dreams, are capable of being ‘over-interpreted’ and 
indeed need to be, if they are to be fully understood, so all 
genuinely creative writings are the product of more than a 
single motive and more than a single impulse in the poet’s mind, 
and are open to more than a single interpretation. In what I 
have written I have only attempted to interpret the deepest 
layer of impulses in the mind of the creative writer.^ 

I cannot leave the subject of typical dreams of the death of 
loved relatives, without adding a few more words to throw light 
on their significance for the theory of dreams in general. In 
these dreams we find the highly unusual condition realized of 
a dream-thought formed by a repressed wish entirely eluding 
censorship and passing into the dream without modification. 
There must be special factors at work to make this event 
possible, and I believe that the occurrence of these dreams is 
facilitated by two such factora. Firstly, there is no wish that 
seems more remote from us than this one: ‘we couldn’t even 
dream ^ — so we believe — of wishing such a thing. For this reason 
the dream-censorship is not armed to meet such a monstrosity, 
just as Solon’s penal code contained no punishment for parri- 
cide. Secondly, in this case the repressed and unsuspected wish 

[Footnote added 1919:] The above indications of a psycho-analytic 
explanation of Hamlet have since been amplified by Ernest Jones and 
defended against the alternative vie^vs put forward in the literature of 
the subject. (See Jones, 1910a [and, in a completer form, 1949].) — 
[Added 1930:] Incidentally, I have in the meantime ceased to believe 
that the author of Shakespeare’s works was the man from Stratford. 
[See Freud, 1930e .] — [Added 1919:] Fur;ber attempts at an analysis of 
Macbeth will be found in a paper of mine [Freud, 1916d] and in one by 
Jekels (1917) . — [The first part of this footnote was included in a different 
form in the edition of 191 1 but omitted from 1914 onwards: ‘The views 
on the problem of Hamlet contained in the above passage have since 
been confirmed and supported with fresh arguments in an extensive 
study by Dr. Ernest Jones of Toronto (1910a). He has also pointed out the 
relation between the material in Hamlet and the myths of the birth of 
heroes discussed by Rank (1909).’ — Freud further discussed Hamlet in a 
posthumously published sketch dealing with ‘Psychopathic Characters 
on the Stage’ (19426), probably written in 1905 or 1906.] 



is particularly often met half-way by a residue from the previous 
day in the form of a worry about the safety of the person con- 
cerned. This worry can only make its way into the dream by 
availing itself of the corresponding wish; while the wish can 
disguise itself behind the worry that has become active during 
the day. [Cf. p. 555 f.] We may feel inclined to think that things 
are simpler than this and that one merely carries on during the 
night and in dreams with what one has been turning over in 
one’s mind during the day; but if so we shall be leaving dreams 
of the death of people of whom the dreamer is fond completely 
in the air and without any cormection with our explanation 
of dreams in general, and we shall thus be clinging quite un- 
necessarily to a riddle which is perfectly capable of solution. 

It is also instructive to consider the relation of these dreams 
to anxiety-dreams. In the dreams we have been discussing, a 
repressed wish has found a means of evading censorship — and 
the distortion which censorship involves. The invariable con- 
comitant is that painful feelings are experienced in the dream. 
In just the same way anxiety-dreams only occur if the censorship 
has been wholly or partly overpowered; and, on the other hand, 
the overpowering of the censorship is facilitated if anxiety has 
already been produced as an immediate sensation arising from 
somatic sources. [Cf. above, p. 235 ff.] We can thus plainly see 
the purpose for which the censorship exercises its office and 
brings about the distortion of dreams: it does so in order to 
prevent the generation of anxiety or other forms of distressing affect. 

I have spoken above [p. 250] of the egoism of children’s 
minds, and I may now add, with a hint at a possible connection 
between the two facts, that dreams have the same characteristic. 
All of them are completely egoistic:^ the beloved ego appears in 
all of them, even though it may be disguised. The wishes that 
are fulfilled in them are invariably the ego’s wishes, and if a 
dream seems to have been provoked by an altruistic interest, 
we are only being deceived by appearances. Here are a few 
analyses of instances which seem to contradict this assertion. 


A child of under four years old reported having dreamt that 
he had seen a big dish with a big joint of roast meat and vegetables on 
^ [Cf. end of footnote below, pp. 270-1. See also p. 322 ft] 


it. All at once the joint had been eaten up — whole and without being cut 
up. He had not seen the person who ate it.'^- 

Who can the unknown person have been whose sumptuous 
banquet of meat was the subject of the little boy’s dream? His 
experiences during the dream-day must enlighten us on the sub- 
ject. By doctor’s orders he had been put on a milk diet for the 
past few days. On the evening of the dream-day he had been 
naughty, and as a punishment he had been sent to bed without 
his supper. He had been through this hunger-cure once before 
and had been very brave about it. He knew he would get 
nothing, but would not allow himself to show by so much as a 
single word that he was hungry. Education had already begun 
to have an effect on him: it found expression in this dream, 
which exhibits the beginning of dream-distortion. There can be 
no doubt that the person whose wishes were aimed at this lavish 
meal — a meat meal, too — was himself. But since he knew he was 
not allowed it, he did not venture to sit down to the meal him- 
self, as hungry children do in dreams. (Cf. my little daughter 
Anna’s dream of straw'berries on p. 130.) The person who ate 
the meal remained anonymous. 


I dreamt one night that I saw in the window of a book-shop a 
new volume in one of the series of monographs for connoisseurs 
which I am in the habit of buying — monographs on great 
artists, on world history, on famous cities, etc. The new series was 
called 'Famous Speakers’ or 'Speeches’ and its first volume bore the name 
of Dr. Lecher. 

1 [This dream, which was dreamt by Fliess’s son Robert, is mentioned 
in Freud’s letters to Fliess of August 8 and 20, 1899. (Freud, 1950a, Let- 
ters 114and 116.)] — The appearance in dreams ofthingsofgreat size and 
in great quantities and amounts, and of exaggeration generally, may be 
another childish characteristic. Children have no more ardent wish than 
to be big and grown-up and to get as much of things as grown-up people 
do. They are hard to satisfy, know no such word as ‘enough’ and insist 
insatiably on a repetition of things which they have enjoyed or whose 
taste they liked. It is only the civilizing influence of education that 
teaches them moderation and how to be content or resigned. Everyone 
knows that neurotics are equally inclined to be extravagant and im- 
moderate. [Children’s love of repetition was alluded to by Freud 
towards the end of the sixth section of Chapter VII of his book on jokes 
(Freud, 1905c) and again discussed near the beginning of Chapter V of 
Beyond the Pleasure Principle (I920g).] 



When I came to analyse this, it seemed to me improbable that 
I should be concerned in my dreams with the fame of Dr. 
Lecher, the non-stop speaker of the German Nationalist obstruc- 
tionists in Parliament. The posidon was that a few days earlier 
I had taken on some new patients for psychological treatment, 
and was now obliged to talk for ten or eleven hours every day. 
So it was I myself who was a non-stop speaker. 


Another time I had a dream that a man I knew on the staff 
of the University said to me: ‘My son, the Myops.’ Then followed 
a dialogue made up of short remarks and rejoinders. After this, 
however, there was yet a third piece of dream in which I myself 
and my sons figured. So far as the dream’s latent content was 
concerned. Professor M. and his son were men of straw — a mere 
screen for me and my eldest son. I shall have to return to this 
dream later, on account of another of its features. [See p. 441 ff.] 


The dream which follows is an instance of really low egoistic 
feelings concealed behind affectionate worry. 

My friend Otto was looking ill. His face was brown and he had 
protruding eyes. 

Otto is my family doctor, and I owe him more than I can 
ever hope to repay: he has watched over my children’s health 
for many years, he has treated them successfully when they have 
been ill, and, in addition, whenever circumstances have given 
him an excuse, he has given them presents. [See p. 1 16.] He had 
visited us on the dream-day, and my wife had remarked that he 
looked tired and strained. That night I had my dream, which 
showed him with some of the signs of Basedow’s [Graves’] 
disease. Anyone who interprets this dream without regard for 
my rules will conclude that I was worried about my friend’s 
health and that this woriy was realized in the dream. This 
would not only contradict my assertion that dreams are wish- 
fulfilments, but my other assertion, too, that they are accessible 
only to egoistic impulses. But I should be glad if anyone inter- 
preting the dream in this way would be good enough to explain 
to me why my fears on Otto’s behalf should have lighted on 
Basedow's disease — a diagnosis for which his actual appearance 
gives not the slightest ground. My analysis, on the other hand. 


brought up the following material from an occurrence six years 
earlier. A small group of us, which included Professor R., were 
driving in pitch darkness through the forest of N., which lay 
some hours’ drive from the place at which we were spending our 
summer holidays. The coachman, who was not perfectly sober, 
spilt us, carriage and all, over an embankment, and it was only 
by a piece of luck that we all escaped injury. We were obliged, 
however, to spend the night in a neighbouring inn, at which the 
news of our accident brought us a lot of sympathy. A gentleman, 
with unmistakable signs of Basedow’s disease — ^incidentally, 
just as in the dream, only the brown discoloration of the skin 
of the face and the protruding eyes, but no goitre — ^placed him- 
self entirely at our disposal and asked what he could do for us. 
Professor R. replied in his decisive manner: ‘Nothing except to 
lend me a night-shirt.’ To which the fine gentleman rejoined: 
‘I’m sorry, but I can’t do that’, and left the room. 

As I continued my analysis, it occurred to me that Basedow 
was the name not only of a physician but also of a famous 
educationalist. (In my waking state I no longer felt quite so 
certain about this.^) But my friend Otto was the person whom 
I had asked to watch over my children’s physical education, 
especially at the age of puberty (hence the night-shirt), in case 
anything happened to me. By giving my friend Otto in the 
dream the symptoms of our noble helper, I was evidently saying 
that if anything happened to me he would do just as little for 
the children as Baron L. had done on that occasion in spite of 
his kind offers of assistance. This seems to be sufficient evidence 
of the egoistic lining of the dream.® 

1 [Though in fact it was correct. He was an eighteenth-century fol- 
lower of Rousseau.] 

2 [Footnote added 191 1 ;] When Ernest Jones was giving a scientific lec- 
ture on the egoism of dreams before an American audience, a learned 
lady objected to this unscientific generalization, saying that the author 
of the present work could only judge of the dreams of Austrians and had 
no business to speak of the dreams of Americans. So far as she was con- 
cerned, she was certain that all her dreams were strictly altruistic. — 
[Added 1925:] By way of excuse for this patriotic lady, I may remark 
that the statement that dreams are entirely egoistic [p. 267] must not be 
misunderstood. Since anything whatever that occurs in preconscious 
thought can pass into a dream (whether into its actual content or into 
the latent dream-thoughts) that possibility is equally open to altruistic 
impulses. In the same way, an affectionate or erotic impulse towards 
someone else, if it is present in the unconscious, can appear in a dream. 



But where was its wish-fulfilment to be found? Not in my 
avenging myself on my friend Otto, whose fate it seems to be to 
be ill-treated in my dreams^; but in the following consideration. 
At the same time as I represented Otto in the dream as Baron L., 
I had identified myself with someone else, namely Professor R.; 
for just as in the anecdote R. had made a request to Baron L., so 
I had made a request to Otto. And that is the point. Pro- 
fessor R., with whom I should really not venture to compare 
myself in the ordinary way, resembled me in having followed an 
independent path outside the academic world and had only 
achieved his well-merited title late in life. So once again I was 
wanting to be a Professor! Indeed the words ‘late in life’ were 
themselves a wish-fulfilment; for they implied that I should live 
long enough to see my boys through the age of puberty myself.* 

[(y) Other Typicax Dreams] 

I have no experience of my own of other kinds of typical 
dreams, in which the dreamer finds himself flying through the 
air to the accompaniment of agreeable feelings or falling with 
feelings of anxiety; and whatever I have to say on the subject is 
derived from psycho-analyses.* The information provided by 
the latter forces me to conclude that these dreams, too, repro- 
duce impressions of childhood; they relate, that is, to games 
involving movement, which are extraordinarily attractive to 
children. There cannot be a single uncle who has not shown a 
child how to fly by rushing across the room with him in his 
outstretched arms, or who has not played at letting him fall by 
riding him on his knee and then suddenly stretching out his leg, 
or by holding him up high and then suddenly pretending to 
drop him. Children are delighted by such experiences and never 
tire of asking to have them repeated, especially if there is some- 

The truth in the assertion made in the text above is thus restricted to the 
fact that among the unconscious instigators of a dream we very fre- 
quently find egoistic impulses which seem to have been overcome in 
waking life. 

^ [Cf. the dream of Irma’s injection in Chapter II (p. 118 ff.).] 

* [This dream is further discussed on pp. 555 and 560.] 

“ [The first sentence of this paragraph appeared in the original edition 
(1900) but was thereafter dropped until 1925. The remainder of the 
paragraph, together with the next one, were added in 1909, and in 1914 
transferred to Chapter VI, Section E (where they will also be found, on 
p. 393 below). In the 1930 edition they were included in both places.] 


thing about them that causes a little fright or giddiness. In after 
years they repeat these experiences in dreams; but in the dreams 
they leave out the hands which held them up, so that they float 
or fall unsupported. The delight taken by young children in 
games of this kind (as well as in swings and see-saws) is well 
known; and when they come to see acrobatic feats in a circus 
their memory of such games is revived.^ Hysterical attacks in 
boys sometimes consist merely in reproductions of feats of this 
kind, carried out with great skill. It not uncommonly happens 
that these games of movement, though innocent in themselves, 
give rise to sexual feelings.^ Childish ‘romping’ \^Hetzen’'\, if I 
may use a word which commonly describes all such activities, 
is what is being repeated in dreams of flying, falling, giddiness 
and so on; while the pleasurable feelings attached to these 
experiences are transformed into anxiety. But often enough, as 
every mother knows, romping among children actually ends in 
squabbling and tears. 

Thus I have good grounds for rejecting the theory that what 
provokes dreams of flying and falling is the state of our tactile 
feelings during sleep or sensations of the movement of our lungs, 
and so on. [Gf. p. 37 f.] In my view these sensations are them- 
selves reproduced as part of the memory to which the dream 
goes back; that is to say, they ru'e part of the content of the dream 
and not its source. 

I cannot, however, disguise from myself that I am unable 

^ [Footnote added 1925:] Analytic research has shown us that in 
addition to pleasure derived from the organs concerned, there is another 
factor which contributes to the delight taken by children in acrobatic 
performances and to their repetition in hysterical attacks. This other 
factor is a memory-image, often unconscious, of an observation of sexual 
intercourse, whether between human beings or animals. 

“ A young medical colleague, who is quite free from any kind of ner- 
vous trouble, has given me the following information on this point: T 
know from my own experience that in my childhood I had a peculiar 
sensation in my genitals when I was on a swing and especially when the 
downward motion reached its greatest momentum. And though I can- 
not say I really enjoyed this sensation I must describe it as a pleasurable 
one.’ — Patients have often told me that the first pleasurable erections 
that they can remember occurred in their boyhood while they were 
climbing about. — Psycho-analysis makes it perfectly certain that the 
first sexual impulses frequently have their roots in games involving 
romping and wrestling played during childhood. [This topic was 
elaborated by Freud in the last section of the second of his Three Essays 
on the Theory of Sexuality (1905d).] 



to produce any complete explanation of this class of typical 
dreams.^ My material has left me in the lurch precisely at this 
point. I must, however, insist upon the general assertion that all 
the tactile and motor sensations which occur in these typical 
dreams are called up immediately there is any psychical reason 
for making use of them and that they can be disregarded when 
no such need for them arises. [Cf. pp. 237-8.] I am also of the 
opinion that the relation of these dreams to infantile experiences 
has been established with certainty from the indications I have 
found in the analyses of psychoneurotics. I am not able to say, 
however, what other meanings may become attached to the 
recollection of such sensations in the course of later life — dif- 
ferent meanings, perhaps, in eveiy individual case, iii spite of 
the typical appearance of the dreams; and I should be glad to 
be able to fill up the gap by a careful analysis of clear instances. 
If anyone feels surprised that, in spite of the frequency precisely 
of dreams of flying, falling and pulling out teeth, etc., I should 
be complaining of lack of material on this particular topic, I 
must explain that I myself have not experienced any dreams of 
the kind since I turned my attention to the subject of dream- 
interpretation. The dreams of neurotics, moreover, of which I 
might otherwise avail myself, cannot always be interpreted — 
not, at least, in many cases, so as to reveal the whole of their 
concealed meaning; a particular psychical force, which was con- 
cerned with the original constructing of the neurosis and is 
brought into operation once again when attempts are made at 
resolving it, prevents us from interpreting such dreams down to 
their last secret. 

[d] Examination Dreams 

Everyone who has passed the matriculation examination at 
the end of his school studies complains of the obstinacy with 
which he is pursued by anxiety-dreams of having failed, or of 
being obliged to take the examination again, etc. In the case of 
those who have obtained a University degree this typical dream 
is replaced by another one which represents them as having 
failed in their University Finals; and it is in vain that they 

1 [In the original edition (1900) the following paragraph (the first 
on examination dreams) preceded this one, and the present paragraph 
concluded the chapter. Thereafter this paragraph was altogether 
omitted imtil 1925.] 

I.D. — ^iv. u 


object, even while they are still asleep, that for years they have 
been practising medicine or working as University lecturers 
or heads of offices. The ineradicable memories of the punish- 
ments that we suffered for our evil deeds in childhood become 
active within us once more and attach themselves to the two 
crucial points in our studies — the 'dies irae, dies ilia' of our stiffest 
examinations. The ‘examination anxiety’ of neurotics owes its 
intensification to these same childhood fears. After we have 
ceased to be school-children, our punishments are no longer 
inflicted on us by our parents or by those who brought us up or 
later by our schoolmasters. The relentless causal chains of real 
life take charge of our further education, and now we dream 
of Matriculation or Finals (and who has not trembled on those 
occasions, even if he was well-prepared for the examination?) 
whenever, having done something wrong or failed to do some- 
thing properly, we expect to be punished by the event — when- 
ever, in short, we feel the burden of responsibility. 

For a further explanation of examination dreams^ I have to 
thank an experienced colleague [Stekel], who once declared at a 
scientific meeting that so far as he knew dreams of Matricula- 
tion only occur in people who have successfully passed it and 
never in people who have failed in it. It would seem, then, that 
anxious examination dreams (which, as has been confirmed 
over and over again, appear when the dreamer has some 
responsible activity ahead of him next day and is afraid there 
may be a fiasco) search for some occasion in the past in which 
great anxiety has turned out to be unjustified and has been 
contradicted by the event. This, then, would be a very striking 
instance of the content of a dream being misunderstood by the 
waking agency. [See pp. 243-4.] What is regarded as an 
indignant protest against the dream: ‘But I’m a doctor, etc., 
already!’ would in reality be the consolation put forward by the 
dream, and would accordingly run: ‘Don’t be afraid of to- 
morrow! Just think how anxious you were before your Matricu- 
lation, and yet nothing happened to you. You’re a doctor, etc., 
already.’ And the anxiety which is attributed to the dream 
would really have arisen from the day’s residues. 

Such tests as I have been able to make of this explanation on 

^ [This paragraph and the next one were added in 1909. In the 
editions of 1909 and 1911 only, the words 'the true explanation’ took the 
place of ‘a further explanation’.] 



myself and on other people, though they have not been suffi- 
ciently numerous, have confirmed its validity. For instance, I 
myself failed in Forensic Medicine in my Finals; but I have 
never had to cope with this subject in dreams, whereas I have 
quite often been examined in Botany, Zoology or Chemistry. I 
went in for the examination in these subjects with well-founded 
anxiety; but, whether by the grace of destiny or of the examiners, 
I escaped punishment. In my dreams of school examinations, I 
am invariably examined in History, in which I did brilliantly 
— though only, it is true, because [in the oral examination] my 
kindly master (the one-eyed benefactor of another dream, see 
p. 17) did not fail to notice that on the paper of questions 
which I handed him back I had run my finger-nail through the 
middle one of the three questions included, to warn him not to 
insist upon that particular one. One of my patients, who decided 
not to sit for his Matriculation the first time but passed it later, 
and who subsequently failed in his army examination and never 
got a commission, has told me that he often dreams of the 
former of these examinations but never of the latter.^ 

The interpretation of examination dreams is faced by the 
difficulty which I have already referred to as characteristic of 
the majority of typical dreams [p. 241].® It is but rarely that the 
material with which the dreamer provides us in associations is 
sufficient to interpret the dream. It is only by collecting a con- 
siderable number of examples of such dreams that we can arrive 
at a better understanding of them. Not long ago I came to the 
conclusion that the objection, ‘You’re a doctor, etc., already’, 
does not merely conceal a consolation but also signifies a 
reproach. This would have run: ‘You’re quite old now, quite far 

1 [At this point in the 1909 edition the following paragraph appeared: 
‘The colleague whom I have mentioned above (Dr. Stekel) has drawn 
attention to the fact that the word we use for Matriculation, "Matura”, 
also means “maturity”; he claims to have observed that “Matura” 
dreams very often appear when a sexual test lies ahead for the next day, 
when, that is, the fiasco that is dreaded may lie in an insufficient release 
of potency.’ In the 1911 edition the following sentence was added: ‘A 
German colleague has, as I think rightly, objected to this that the name 
of this examination in Germany — “Abiturium ” — does not bear this 
double meaning.’ This whole paragraph was omitted from 1914 on- 
wards. In 1925 it was replaced by the new final paragraph of the 
chapter. The subject was discussed by Stekel himself in 1909, 464 and 

* [This paragraph was added in 1914.] 



advanced in life, and yet you go on doing these stupid, childish 
things.’ This mixture of self-criticism and consolation would 
thus correspond to the latent content of examination dreams. If 
so, it would not be surprising if the self-reproaches for being 
‘stupid’ and ‘childish’ in these last examples referred to the 
repetition of reprehensible sexual acts. 

Wilhelm Stekel,^ who put forward the first interpretation of 
dreams of Matriculation [‘iWaft/ffl’], was of the opinion that 
they regularly related to sexual tests and sexual maturity. My 
experience has often confirmed his view.® 

1 [This paragraph was added in 1925.] 

® [In the 1909 and 1911 editions this chapter was continued with a 
discussion of other kinds of ‘typical’ dreams. But from 1914 onwards this 
further discussion was transferred to Chapter VI, Section E, after the 
newly introduced material dealing with dream-symbolism. See p. 384 
below. (Cf. Editor’s Introduction, p. xiii.)] 



Every attempt that has hitherto been made to solve the prob- 
lem of dreams has dealt directly with their manifest content as it 
is presented in our memory. All such attempts have endeavoured 
to arrive at an interpretation of dreams from their manifest 
content or (if no interpretation was attempted) to form a judge- 
ment as to their nature on the basis of that same manifest con- 
tent. We are alone in taking something else into account. We 
have introduced a new class of psychical material between the 
manifest content of dreams and the conclusions of our enquiry: 
namely, their latent content, or (as we say) the ‘dream-thoughts’, 
arrived at by means ol' our procedure. It is from these dream- 
thoughts and not from a dream’s manifest content that we dis- 
entangle its meaning. V\’e arc thus presented with a new task 
which had no previous existence: tlic task, that is, of investigat- 
ing the relations between the manifest content of dreams and 
the latent dream-thoughts, and of tracing out the processes by 
w'hich the latter ha^'e been changed into the former. 

The dream-thoughts and tlie dream-content are presented to 
us like two versions of the same subject-matter in two different 
languages. Or, more properly, tlie dream-content seems like a 
transcript of the dream-thoughts into another mode of expres- 
sion, whose characters and syntactic laws it is our business to 
discover by comparing the original and the translation. The 
dream-thoughts are immediately comprehensible, as soon as w'e 
have learnt them. The dream-content, on the other hand, is 
expressed as it were in a pictographic script, the characters of 
which have to be transposed individually into the language of 
the dream-thoughts. If we attempted to read these characters 
according to their pictorial value instead of according to their 
symbolic relation, w’e should clearly be led into error. Suppose 
I have a picture-puzzle, a rebus, in front of me. It depicts a 
house with a boat on its roof, a single letter of the alphabet, the 

* [Xiccture XI of Freud’s Introductory Lectures (19i-6-17) deals with the 
dream-work on a much less extensive scale.] 




figure of a ru n ni n g man whose head has been conjured away, 
and so on. Now I might be misled into raising objections and 
declaring that the picture as a whole and its component parts 
are nonsensical. A boat has no business to be on the roof of a 
house, and a headless man cannot run. Moreover, the man is 
bigger than the house; and if the whole picture is intended to 
represent a landscape, letters of the alphabet are out of place in 
it since such objects do not occur in nature. But obviously we 
can only form a proper judgement of the rebus if we put aside 
criticisms such as these of the whole composition and its parts 
and if, instead, we try to replace each separate element by a 
syllable or word that can be represented by that element in 
some way or other. The words which are put together in this 
way are no longer nonsensical but may form a poetical phrase 
of the greatest beauty and significance. A dream is a picture- 
puzzle of this sort and our predecessors in the field of dream- 
interpretation have made the mistake of treating the rebus as a 
pictorial composition: and as such it has seemed to them non- 
sensical and worthless. 



The first thing that becomes clear to anyone who compares 
the dream-content with the dream-thoughts is that a work of 
condensation on a large scale has been carried out. Dreams are 
brief, meagre and laconic in comparison with the range and 
wealth of the dream-thoughts. If a dream is written out it may 
perhaps fill half a page. The analysis setting out the dream- 
thoughts underlying it may occupy six, eight or a dozen times 
as much space. This relation varies with different dreams; but 
so far as my experience goes its direction never varies. As a rule 
one underestimates the amount of compression that has taken 
place, since one is inclined to regard the dream-thoughts that 
have been brought to light as the complete material, whereas if 
the work of interpretation is carried further it may reveal still 
more thoughts concealed behind the dream. I have already had 
occasion to point out [cf. p. 218 f.] that it is in fact never 
possible to be sure that a dream has been completely inter- 
preted.^ Even if the solution seems satisfactory and without 
gaps, the possibility always remains that the dream may have 
yet another meaning. Strictly speaking, then, it is impossible to 
determine the amount of condensation. 

There is an answer, which at first sight seems most plausible, 
to the argument that the great lack of proportion between the 
dream-content and the dream-thoughts implies that the psy- 
chical material has undergone an extensive process of condensa- 
tion in the course of the formation of the dream. We very often 
have an impression that we have dreamt a great deal all through 
the night and have since forgotten most of what we dreamt. On 
this view, the dream which we remember when we wake up 
would only be a fragmentary remnant of the total dream-work; 
and this, if we could recollect it in its entirety, might well be 
as extensive as the dream-thoughts. There is undoubtedly some 
truth in this: there can be no question that dreams can be 
reproduced most accurately if we try to recall them as soon as 
we wake up and that our memory of them becomes more and 

^ [This subject is discussed at length in Freud, 1925t, Section A.] 




more incomplete towards evening. But on the other hand it 
can be shown that the impression that we have dreamt a great 
deal more than we can reproduce is very often based on an 
illusion, the origin of which I shall discuss later. [Cf. pp. 489 
and 517.] Moreover the hypothesis that condensation occurs 
during the dream-rvork is not affected by the possibility of 
dreams being forgotten, since this hypothesis is proved to be 
correct by the quantities of ideas which are related to each 
individual piece of the dream which has been retained. Even 
supposing that a large piece of the dream has escaped recollec- 
tion, this may merely have prevented our having access to 
another group of dream-thoughts. There is no justification for 
supposing that the lost pieces of the dream would have related 
to the same thoughts which we have already reached from the 
pieces of the dream that have survived.^ 

In view of the very great number of associations produced in 
analysis to each individual element of the content of a dream, 
some readers may be led to doubt whether, as a matter of prin- 
ciple, we are justified in regarding as part of the dream- thoughts 
all the associations that occur to us during the subsequent 
analysis — whether we are justified, that is, in supposing that all 
these thoughts were already active during the state of sleep and 
played a part in the formation of the dream. Is it not more 
probable that new trains of thought have arisen in the course of 
the analysis which had no share in forming the dream? I can 
only give limited assent to this argument. It is no doubt true 
that some trains of thought arise for the first time during the 
analysis. But one can convince oneself in all such cases that 
these new connections are only set up between thoughts which 
were already linked in some other way in the dream- thoughts.® 
The new connections are, as it were, loop-lines or short-cir- 
cuits, made possible by the existence of other and deeper-lying 
connecting paths. It must be allowed that the great bulk of the 
thoughts which are revealed in analysis were already active 
during the process of forming the dream; for, after working 

* {Footnole added 1914;] The occurrence of condensation in dreams has 
been hinted at by many writers. Du Prel (1885, 85) has a passage in 
which he says it is absolutely certain that there has been a process of 
condensation of the groups of ideas in dreams. 

* [This question is mentioned again on p. 311 and discussed at very 
much greater length in the last part of Section A of Chapter VII 
(p. 526 f.). See especially p. 532.] 


through a string of thoughts which seem to have no connection 
with the formation of a dream, one suddenly comes upon one 
which is represented in its content and is indispensable for its 
interpretation, but which could not have been reached except 
by this particular line of approach. I may here recall the dream 
of the botanical monograph [p. 169 if.], which strikes one as 
the product of an astonishing amount of condensation, even 
though I have not reported its analysis in full. 

How, then, are we to picture psychical conditions during the 
period of sleep which precedes dreams? Are all the dream- 
thoughts present alongside one another? or do they occur in 
sequence? or do a number of trains of thought start out simul- 
taneously from different centres and afterwards unite? There is 
no need for the present, in my opinion, to form any plastic idea 
of psychical conditions during the formation of dreams. It must 
not be forgotten, however, that we are dealing with an uncon- 
scious process of thought, which may easily be different from 
what we perceive during purposive reflection accompanied by 

The unquestionable fact remains, however, that the forma- 
tion of dreams is based on a process of condensation. How is 
that condensation brought about? 

When we reflect that only a small minority of all the dream- 
thoughts revealed are represented in the dream by one of their 
ideational elements, we might conclude that condensation is 
brought about by omission: that is, that the dream is not a faith- 
ful translation or a point-for-point projection of the dream- 
thoughts, but a highly incomplete and fragmentary version of 
them. This view, as we shall soon discover, is a most inadequate 
one. But we may take it as a provisional starting-point and go 
on to a further question. If only a few elements from the dream- 
thoughts find their way into the dream-content, what are the 
conditions which determine their selection? 

In order to get some light on this question we must turn our 
attention to those elements of the dream-content which must 
have fulfilled these conditions. And the most favourable material 
for such an investigation will be a dream to the construction of 
which a particularly intense process of condensation has con- 
tributed. I shall accordingly begin by choosing for the purpose 
the dream which I have already recorded on p. 169 ff. 




The Dream of the Botanical Monograph 

Content of the Dream. — I had written a monograph on an 
{unspecified) genus of plants. The book lay before me and I was at the 
moment turning over a folded coloured plate. Bound up in the copy there 
was a dried specimen of the plant. 

The element in this dream which stood out most was the 
botanical monograph. This arose from the impressions of the dream- 
day: I had in fact seen a monograph on the genus Cyclamen in 
the window of a book-shop. There was no mention of this genus 
in the content of the dream; all that was left in it was the mono- 
graph and its relation to botany. The ‘botanical monograph’ 
immediately revealed its connection with the work upon cocaine 
which I had once written. From ‘cocaine’ the chains of thought 
led on the one hand to the Festschrift and to certain events in a 
University laboratory, and on the other hand to my friend Dr, 
Konigstein, the eye surgeon, who had had a share in the intro- 
duction of cocaine. The figure of Dr. Konigstein further re- 
minded me of the interrupted conversation which I had had 
with him the evening before and of my various reflections upon 
the payment for medical services among colleagues. This con- 
versation was the actual currently active instigator of the dream; 
the monograph on the cyclamen v/as also a currently active 
impression, but one of an indifferent nature. As I perceived, the 
‘botanical monograph’ in the dream turned out to be an ‘inter- 
mediate common entity’ between the two experiences of the 
previous day: it was taken over unaltered from the indifferent 
impression and was linked with the psychically significant event 
by copious associative connections. 

Not only the compound idea, ‘botanical monograph’, how- 
ever, but each of its components, ‘botanical’ and ‘monograph’ 
separately, led by numerous connecting paths deeper and deeper 
into the tangle of dream-thoughts. ‘Botanical’ was related to the 
figure of Professor Gartner [Geirdener], the blooming looks of his 
wife, to my patient Flora and to the lady [Frau L.] of whom I 
had told the story of the forgotten fiowers. Gartner led in turn to 
the laboratory and to my conversation with Konigstein. My 
two patients [Flora and Frau L.] had been mentioned in the 
course of this conversation. A train of thought joined the lady 
with the flowers to my wife’s favourite flowers and thence to the 



title of the monograph which I had seen for a moment during 
the day. In addition to these, ‘botanical’ recalled an episode at 
my secondary school and an examination while I was at the 
University. A fresh topic touched upon in my conversation with 
Dr. Konigstein — my favourite hobbies — ^was joined, through the 
intermediate link of what I jokingly called my favourite flower, 
the artichoke, with the train of thought proceeding from the 
forgotten flowers. Behind ‘artichokes’ lay, on the one hand, my 
thoughts about Italy^ and, on the other hand, a scene from my 
childhood which was the opening of what have since become 
my intimate relations with books. Thus ‘botanical’ was a regular 
nodal point in the dream. Numerous trains of thought con- 
verged upon it, which, as I can guarantee, had appropriately 
entered into the context of the conversation with Dr. Konig- 
stein. Here we find ourselves in a factory of thoughts where, as 
in the ‘weaver’s masterpiece’, — 

Ein Tritt tausend Faden regt, 

Die Schifflein heriiber hiniiber schiessen, 

Die Faden ungesehen fliessen, 

Ein Schlag tausend Verbindungen schlagt.^ 

So, too, ‘monograph’ in the dream touches upon two subjects: 
the one-sidedness of my studies and the costliness of my favourite 

This first investigation leads us to conclude that the elements 
‘botanical’ and ‘monograph’ found their way into the content 
of the dream because they possessed copious contacts with the 
majority of the dream-thoughts, because, that is to say, they 
constituted ‘nodal points’ upon which a great number of the 
dream-thoughts converged, and because they had several mean- 
ings in connection with the interpretation of the dream. The 
explanation of this fundamental fact can also be put in another 
way: each of the elements of the dream’s content turns out to 
have been ‘overdetermined’ — to have been represented in the 
dream-thoughts many times over. 

1 piiis seems to be a reference to an element in the dream-thoughts 
not previously mentioned.] 

* [. . . a thousand threads one treadle throws, 

Where fly the shuttles hither and thither, 

Unseen the threads are knit together, 

And an infinite combination grows. 

Goethe, Faust, Part I [Scene 4] 

(Bayard Taylor’s translation).] 



We discover still more when we come to examine the remain- 
ing constituents of the dream in relation to their appearance in 
the dream-thoughts. The coloured plate which I was unfolding 
led (see the analysis, p. 172 f.) to a new topic, my colleagues’ 
criticisms of my activities, and to one which was already repre- 
sented in the dream, my favourite hobbies; and it led, in addi- 
tion, to the childhood memory in which I was pulling to pieces 
a book with coloured plates. The dried specimen of the plant touched 
upon the episode of the herbarium at my secondary school and 
specially stressed that memory'. 

The nature of the relation between dream-content and dream- 
thoughts thus becomes visible. Not only are the elements of a 
dream determined by the dream-thoughts many times over, but 
the individual dream-thoughts are represented in the dream by 
several elements. Associative paths lead from one element of 
the dream to several dream-thoughts, and from one dream- 
thought to several elements of the dream. Thus a dream is not 
constructed by each individual dream-thought, or group of 
dream-thoughts, finding (in abbreviated form) separate repre- 
sentation in the content of the dream — in the kind of way in 
which an electorate chooses parliamentary representatives; a 
dream is constructed, rather, by the whole mass of dream- 
thoughts being submitted to a sort of manipulative process in 
which those elements which have the most numerous and 
strongest supports acquire the right of entry into the dream- 
content — in a manner analogous to election by scrutin de liste. 
In the case of every dream which I have submitted to an 
analysis of this kind I have invariably found these same funda- 
mental principles confirmed: the elements of the dream are 
constructed out of the whole mass of dream-thoughts and each 
one of those elements is show'n to have been determined many 
times over in relation to the dream-thoughts. 

It will certainly not be out of place to illustrate the connec- 
tion between dream-content and dream-thoughts by a further 
example, which is distinguished by the specially ingenious 
interweaving of their reciprocal relations. It is a dream pro- 
duced by one of my patients — a man whom I was treating for 
claustrophobia. It will soon become dear why 1 have chosen 
to give this exceptionally clever dream-production the title of 



‘A Lovely Dream’ 

He was driving with a large party to X Street, in which there was an 
unpretentious inn. (This is not the case.) There was a play being acted 
inside it. At one moment he was audience, at another actor. When it was 
over, they had to change their clothes so as to get back to town. Some of 
the company were shown into rooms on the ground floor and others into 
rooms on the first floor. Then a dispute broke out. The ones up above were 
angry because the ones down below were not ready, and they could not 
come downstairs. His brother was up above and he was down below and 
he was angry with his brother because they were so much pressed. (This 
part was obscure.) Moreover, it had been decided and arranged even 
when they first arrived who was to be up above and who was to be down 
below. Then he was walking by himself up the rise made by X Street in 
the direction of town. He walked with such difliculty and so laboriously 
that he seemed glued to the spot. An elderly gentleman came up to him 
and began abusing the King of Italy. At the top of the rise he was able 
to walk much more easily. 

His difficulty in walking up the rise was so distinct that after 
waking up he was for some time in doubt whether it was a 
dream or reality. 

We should not think very highly of this dream, judging by 
its manifest content. In defiance of the rules, I shall begin its 
interpretation with the portion which the dreamer described as 
being the most distinct. 

The difficulty which he dreamt of and probably actually 
experienced during the dream — the laborious climbing up the 
rise accompanied by dyspnoea — ^was one of the symptoms which 
the patient had in fact exhibited years before and which had 
at that time been attributed, along with certain other symp- 
toms, to tuberculosis. (The probability is that this was hysteric- 
ally simulated.) The peculiar sensation of inhibited movement 
that occurs in this dream is already familiar to us from dreams 
of exhibiting [see p. 242 ff.] and we see once more that it is 
material available at any time for any other representational 
purpose. [Cf. p. 335 ff.] The piece of the dream-content which 
described how the climb began by being difficult and became 
easy at the end of the rise reminded me, when I heard it, of the 
masterly introduction to Alphonse Daudet’s Sappho. That well- 
known passage describes how a young man carries his mistress 



upstairs in his arms; at first she is as light as a feather, but the 
higher he climbs the heavier grows her weight. The whole scene 
foreshadows the course of their love-affair, which was intended 
by Daudet as a warning to young men not to allow their affec- 
tions to be seriously engaged by girls of humble origin and a 
dubious past.^ Though I knew that my patient had been in- 
volved in a love-affair which he had recently broken off with a 
lady on the stage, I did not expect to find my guess at an inter- 
pretation justified. Moreover the situation in Sappho was the 
reverse of what it had been in the dream. In the dream the 
climbing had been difficult to begin with and had afterwards 
become easy; whereas the symbolism in the novel only made 
sense if something that had been begun lightly ended by becom- 
ing a heavy burden. But to my astonishment my patient replied 
that my interpretation fitted in very well with a piece he had 
seen at the theatre the evening before. It was called Rund um 
Wien {Round Vienna'] and gave a picture of the career of a girl 
who began by being respectable, who then became a demi- 
mondaine and had liaisons with men in high positions and so 
‘went up in the world\ but who ended by ‘coming down in the 
world’. The piece had moreover reminded him of another, which 
he had seen some years earlier, called Von Stufe zu Stufe [Step by 
Step], and which had been advertised by a poster showing a 
staircase with a flight of steps. 

To continue with the interpretation. The actress with whom 
he had had this latest, eventful liaison had lived in X Street. 
There is nothing in the nature of an inn in that street. But when 
he was spending part of the summer in Vienna on the lady’s 
account he had put up [German ‘abgestiegen’ , literally ‘stepped 
down'] at a small hotel in the neighbourhood. When he left the 
hotel he had said to his cab-driver: ‘Anyhow Tm lucky not to 
have picked up any vermin.’ (This, incidentally, was another 
of his phobias.) To this the driver had replied: ‘How could any- 
one put up at such a place! It’s not a hotel, it’s only an inn.' 

The idea of an inn at once recalled a quotation to his mind: 

Bei einem Wirle wundermild, 

Da war ich jiingst zu Gaste.® 

^ [Footnote added 1911:] What I have written below in the section on 
symbolism about the significance of dreams of climbing [p. 355 n.] 
throws light upon the imagery chosen by the novelist. 

® [Literally: ‘I was lately a guest at an inn with a most gentle host.’ 
(Uhland, Wanderlieder, 8, ‘Einkehr’.)] 



The host in Uhland’s poem was an apple-tree; and a second 
quotation now carried on his train of thought: 

Faust {mit der Jungen tanzend ) : 

Einst hatt’ ich einen schBnen Traum; 

Da sah ich einen Apfelbaum, 

Zwei schone Apfel glanzten dran, 

Sie reizten mich, ich stieg hinan. 

Die Schone: 

Der Apfelchen begehrt ihr sehr, 

Und sclion vom Paradiese her. 

Von Freuden fuhP ich mich bewegt, 

Dass auch mein Garten solche tragt.^ 

There cannot be the faintest doubt what the apple-tree and the 
apples stood for. Moreover, lovely breasts had been among the 
charms which had attracted the dreamer to his actress. 

The context of the analysis gave us every ground for suppos- 
ing that the dream went back to an impression in childhood. 
If so, it must have referred to the wet-nurse of the dreamer, who 
was by then a man almost thirty years old. For an infant the 
breasts of his wet-nurse are nothing more nor less than an inn. 
The wet-nurse, as well as Daudet’s Sappho, seem to have been 
allusions to the mistress whom the patient had recently dropped. 

The patient’s (elder) brother also appeared in the content of 
the dream, the brother being up above and the patient himself 
down below. This was once again the reverse of the actual situa- 
tion; for, as I knew, the brother had lost his soeial position 
while the patient had maintained his. In repeating the content 
of the dream to me, the dreamer had avoided saying that his 
brother was up above and he himself ‘on the ground floor’. 
That would have put the position too clearly, since here in 

1 [Faust (dancing with the Toung Witch): 

A lovely dream once came to me, 

And I beheld an apple-tree. 

On which two lovely apples shone; 

They charmed me so, I climbed thereon. 

The Lovely Witch; 

Apples have been desired by you, 

Since first in Paradise they grew; 

And I am moved with joy to know 
That such within my garden grow. 

' Goethe, Faust, Part I [Scene 21, Walpurgisnacht] 
(Bayard Taylor’s translation, slightly modified).] 



Vienna if we say someone is 'on the ground floor' we mean that he 
has lost his money and his position — in other words, that he 
has 'come down in the world'. Now tliere must have been a reason 
for some of this part of the dream being represented by its 
reverse. Further, the reversal must hold good of some other rela- 
tion between dream-thoughts and dream-content as well [cf. 
below, p. 326 f.] ; and we have a hint of where to look for this 
reversal. It must evidently be at the end of the dream, where 
once again there was a reversal of the difficulty in going upstairs 
as described in Sappho. We can then easily see what reversal is 
intended. In Sappho the man carried a woman who was in a 
sexual relation to him; in the dream-thoughts the position was 
reversed, and a woman was carrying a man. And since this can 
only happen in childhood, the reference was once more to the 
wet-nurse bearing the weight of the infant in her arms. Thus 
the end of the dream made a simultaneous reference to Sappho 
and to the wet-nurse. 

Just as the author of the novel, in choosing the name ‘Sappho’, 
had in mind an allusion to Lesbian practices, so too the pieces 
of the dream that spoke of people 'up above' and 'down below' 
alluded to phantasies of a sexual nature which occupied the 
patient’s mind and, as suppressed desires, were not without a 
bearing on his neurosis. (The interpretation of the dream did 
not itself show us that what were thus represented in the dream 
were phantasies and not recollections of real events; an analysis 
only gives us the content of a thought and leaves it to us to deter- 
mine its reality. Real and imaginary events appear in dreams at 
first sight as of equal validity; and that is so not only in dreams 
but in the production of more important psychical structures.) ^ 

A ‘large party’ meant, as we already know [see p. 245 f.], a 
secret. His brother was simply the representative (introduced 
into the childhood scene by a ‘retrospective phantasy’)* of all 
his later rivals for a woman’s affection. The episode of the gen- 
tleman who abused the King of Italy related once again, via 
the medium of a recent and in itself indifferent experience, to 

^ [Freud is probably referring here to the discovery which he had 
recently made that the infantile sexual traumas apparently revealed in 
his analyses of neurotic patients were in fact very often phantasies. See 
Freud, 1906a.] 

* [Phantasies of this kind had been discussed by Freud previously, in 
the latter part of his paper on ‘Screen Memories’ (1899a).] 

A. THE WORK OP tjfMmmmTifm m 

people of lower rank pushing their way tet<; hj'gJj.<fr s<>t;kty. It 
just as though the child at the breast was givew a 
parallel to the one which Daudet iiad giviss Uj ifmh^ 

To pro\ide a third opportunity for stadywg -cgjjdtsfJSa-lfos) fe 
the formation of dreams, I will gjv« -pmi a;iaJly^s 1(4 

another dream, which I owe to an fidetf'Jy lady 
psyclio-analy tic treatment. As was to be esipeeted fruw the ;sey^y'« 
anxiety-states from w^hich the patjent staJEersd,, ht?" d=it^.eP.5 (PO#' 
tained a very large number of sexual thoB^Uts^ the ihst 
tion of which both surprised and alaxaaed her., J tShsltf »<At 
be able to pursue the interpretation <cjl' the to the 

its material will appear to fall into seyetfflJ ^o.Bps widuoBt 
visible connection. 


‘The MAY-BEEaxi® 

Context of the Dee-akl— : 57ir caiM it mni Mini fh ,’Jmi im> 
mc)-heeUes in a box and iitat dix tmiii Sfd flmn tr fh^’ .imiM 
ssiiffooaie. She opened Ua box md ihf ;jmf in m 

sMe. One of them flew met tf the open wirdmj buHlie udm 
by like casemeni while she was shiUviJ^ it d smeone’s mji/test.- pf 

AivALTas. — Her hiusband was lentpo.mi:ily ttw-ay ifroiti jhofne; 
and her Iburtseri'year'-oH •w'as tilot^ing ;iii tltt: bt-d 
ibemde iter. The es'ening btdbte, the girl .hull tlrawii lier affifli- 
tion ±0 ii moLh w-bich had lidley iuto her tuihlikTi' ol'-watta;; but 
jihe had not taien it out a,tid lelt soiTyfor tbe poor er*sttMfe.i;»<oit 
■morhhig. j'he booh she had been .'.eadiug -duririg tlie evaiiag 
had Told hO'V' some boys .had tlnovva a eatunio bo.iliuj: ; 

and had desoiibed xhe -aututaih tuuvulaioiK. wfne 

fiEEdgaiistimg causes "J' the theatti=Tiii itpilifler^jitt. 

TThe :t^atui»' of hie sHwaUep rrefeitif^ ~.ip hie 'di’eftffasf ts 

'.wesiiiutst: ww pioveil hytiir vl^ielively 

ttie '.wsvau'-s*.; :l«id heev 'iiis .-mfttiffic. J ;t«ay:.resi4UiHi;lii.b ^tiowsepofi tbf; 
aiKEdoK.-viiiPi- J .fepestitd 

itliat:TehFrc!:rio;<7i' witb;his 
-Anssiev aT tiic sanASliiod wa?;Tiobojri>i 

' (ffuniafuitse: ^ dhe 

tfinri iis ttP fe iprdfose^jl 

nm.— fiv ^ 



She then pursued the subject of cruelty to animals further. Some 
years before, while they were spending the summer at a par- 
ticular place, her daughter had been very cruel to animals. She 
was collecting butterflies and asked the patient for some arsenic 
to kill them with. On one occasion a moth with a pin through 
its body had gone on flying about the room for a long time; 
another time some caterpillars which the child was keeping to 
turn into chrysalises starved to death. At a still more tender age 
the same child used to tear the wings off beetles and butterflies. 
But to-day she would be horrified at all these cruel actions — 
she had grown so kind-hearted. 

The patient reflected over this contradiction. It reminded her 
of another contradiction, between appearance and character, 
as George Eliot displays it in Adam Bede: one girl who was pretty, 
but vain and stupid, and another who was ugly, but of high 
character; a nobleman who seduced the silly girl, and a working 
man who felt and acted with true nobility. How impossible it 
was, she remarked, to recognize that sort of thing in people! 
Who would have guessed, to look at her, that she was tormented 
by sensual desires? 

In the same year in which the little girl had begun collecting 
butterflies, the district they were in had suffered from a serious 
plague of may-beetles. The children were furious with the beetles 
and crushed them unmercifully. At that time my patient had 
seen a man who tore the wings off may-beetles and then ate 
their bodies. She herself had been born in May and had been 
married in May. Three days after her marriage she had written 
to her parents at home saying how happy she was. But it had 
been far from true. 

The evening before the dream she had been rummaging 
among some old letters and had read some of them — some 
serious and some comic — aloud to her children. There had been 
a most amusing letter from a piano-teacher who had courted 
her when she was a girl, and another from an admirer of noble 

She blamed herself because one of her daughters had got hold 
of a ‘bad’ book by Maupassant.® The arsenic that the girl had 

^ This had been the true instigator of the dream. 

* An interpolation is required at this point: ‘books of that kind are 
poison to a girl’. The patient herself had dipped into forbidden books a 
great deal when she was young. 



asked for reminded her of the arsenic pills which restored the 
Due de Mora’s youthful strength in [Daudet’s] Le Nabab. 

‘Set them free’ made her think of a passage in the Magic 

Zur Liebe kann ich dich nicht zwingen, 

Doch geb ich dir die Freiheit nicht.^ 

‘May-beetles’ also made her think of Katchen’s words: 

Verliebt ja wie ein K^er bist du mir.® 

And in the middle of all this came a quotation from Tam- 

Weil du von bdser Lust beseelt . , .* 

She was living in a perpetual worry about her absent hus- 
band. Her fear that something might happen to him on his 
journey was expressed in numerous waking phantasies. A short 
time before, in the course of her analysis, she had lighted among 
her unconscious thoughts upon a complaint about her husband 
‘growing senile’. The wishful thought concealed by her present 
dream will perhaps best be conjectured if I mention that, some 
days before she dreamt it, she was horrified, in the middle of 
her daily affairs, by a phrase in the imperative mood which 
came into her head and was aimed at her husband: ‘Go and 
hang yourself!’ It turned out that a few hours earlier she had 
read somewhere or other that when a man is hanged he gets a 
powerful erection. The wish for an erection was what had 
emerged from repression in this horrifying disguise. ‘Go and hang 
yourself!’ was equivalent to: ‘Get yourself an erection at any 
price!’ Dr. Jenkins’s arsenic pills in Le Nabab fitted in here. But 
my patient was also aware that the most powerful aphrodisiac, 
cantharides (commonly known as ‘Spanish flies’), was prepared 

1 [Fear not, to love I’ll ne’er compel thee; 

Yet ’tis too soon to set thee free. 

(Sarastro to Pamina in the Finale to Act I. — 

E. J. Dent’s translation.)] 

® [‘You are madly in love with me.’ Literally: ‘You are in love with 
me like a beetle.’ From Kleist’s Kdtchen von Heilbronn, IV, 2.] — ^A further 
train of thought led to the same poet’s Penthesilea, and to the idea of 
cruelty to a lover. 

* [Literally: ‘Because thou wast inspired by such evil pleasure.’ This is 
presumably a recollection of the opening phrase of the Pope’s con- 
demnation reported by Tannhauser in the last scene of the opera. The 
actual words are: ‘Hast du so bSse Lust getheilt’ — ‘Since thou hast 
shared such evil pleasure’.] 



from crushed beetles. This was the drift of the principal part of 
the dream’s content. 

The opening and shutting of windows was one of the main 
subjects of dispute between her and her husband. She herself 
was aerophilic in her sleeping habits; her husband was aero- 
phobic. Exhaustion was the chief symptom which she complained 
of at the time of the dream. 

In all three of the dreams which I have just recorded, I have 
indicated by italics the points at which one of the elements of 
the dream-content re-appears in the dream-thoughts, so as to 
show clearly the multiplicity of connections arising from the 
former. Since, however, the analysis of none of these dreams has 
been traced to its end, it will perhaps be worth while to consider 
a dream whose analysis has been recorded exhaustively, so as 
to show how its content is over-determined. For this purpose I 
will take the dream of Irma’s injection [p. 106 ff.]. It will be easy 
to see from that example that the work of condensation makes 
use of more than one method in the construction of dreams. 

The principal figure in the dream-content was my patient 
Irma. She appeared with the featmes which were hers in real 
life, and thus, in the first instance, represented herself. But the 
position in which I examined her by the window was derived 
from someone else, the lady for whom, as the dream-thoughts 
showed, I wanted to exchange my patient. In so far as Irma 
appeared to have a diphtheritic membrane, which recalled my 
anxiety about my eldest daughter, she stood for that child and, 
behind her, through her possession of the same name as my 
daughter, was hidden the figure of my patient who succumbed 
to poisoning. In the further course of the dream the figure of 
Irma acquired still other meanings, without any alteration 
occurring in the visual picture of her in the dream. She turned 
into one of the children whom we had examined in the neuro- 
logical department of the children’s hospital, where my two 
friends revealed their contrasting characters. The figure of my 
own child was evidently the stepping-stone towards this transi- 
tion. The same ‘Irma’s’ recalcitrance over opening her mouth 
brought an allusion to another lady whom I had once examined, 
and, through the same connection, to my wife. Moreover, the 
pathological changes which I discovered in her throat involved 
allusions to a whole series of other figures. 


None of these figures whom I lighted upon by following up 
‘Irma’ appeared in the dream in bodily shape. They were con- 
cealed behind the dream figure of ‘Irma’, which was thus turned 
into a collective image with, it must be admitted, a number of 
contradictory characteristics. Irma became the representative 
of all these other figures which had been sacrificed to the work 
of condensation, since I passed over to her, point by point, every- 
thing that reminded me of them. 

There is another way in which a ‘collective figure’ can be 
produced for purposes of dream-condensation, namely by unit- 
ing the actual features of two or more people into a single 
dream-image. It was in this way that the Dr. M. of my dream 
was constructed. He bore the name of Dr. M., he spoke and 
acted like him; but his physical characteristics and his malady 
belonged to someone else, namely to my eldest brother. One 
single feature, his pale appearance, was doubly determined, 
since it was common to both of them in real life. 

Dr. R. in my dream about my uncle with the yellow beard 
[p. 136 ff.] was a similar composite figure. But in his case the 
dream-image was constructed in yet another way. I did not 
combine the features of one person with those of another and 
in the process omit from the memory-picture certain features 
of each of them. What I did was to adopt the procedure by 
means of which Galton produced family portraits: namely by 
projecting two images on to a single plate, so that certain fea- 
tures common to both are emphasized, while those which fail 
to fit in with one another cancel one another out and are indis- 
tinct in the picture. In my dream about my uncle the fair beard 
emerged prominently from a face which belonged to two people 
and which was consequently blurred; incidentally, the beard 
further involved an allusion to my father and myself through 
the intermediate idea of growing grey. 

The construction of collective and composite figures is one of 
the chief methods by which condensation operates in dreams. 
I shall presently have occasion to deal with them in another 
context. [See p. 320 f.] 

The occurrence of the idea of ‘dysentery’ in the dream of 
Irma’s injection also had a multiple determination: first owing 
to its phonetic similarity to ‘diphtheria’ [see p. 114], and 
secondly owing to its connection with the patient whom I had 
sent to the East and whose hysteria was not recognized. 



Another interesting example of condensation in this dream 
was the mention in it of ‘propyls’ [p. 115 ff.]. What was con- 
tained in the dream-thoughts was not ‘propyls’ but ‘amyls’. It 
might be supposed that a single displacement had taken place at 
this point in the construction of the dream. This was indeed the 
case. But the displacement served the purposes of condensation, 
as is proved by the following addition to the analysis of the dream. 
When I allowed my attention to dwell for a moment longer on 
the word ‘propyls’, it occurred to me that it sounded like 
‘Propylaea’. But there are Propylaea not only in Athens but in 
Munich.^ A year before tlie dream I had gone to Munich to visit 
a friend who was seriously ill at the time — the same friend who 
was unmistakably alluded to in the dream by the word ‘tri- 
methylamin’ which occurred immediately after ‘propyls’. 

I shall pass over the striking way in which here, as elsewhere 
in dream-analyses, associations of the most various inherent 
importance are used for laying down thought-connections as 
though they were of equal weight, and shall yield to the tempta- 
tion to give, as it were, a plastic picture of the process by which 
the amyls in the dream-thoughts were replaced by propyls in 
the dream-content. 

On the one hand we see the group of ideas attached to my 
friend Otto, who did not understand me, who sided against me, 
and who made me a present of liqueur with an aroma of amyl. 
On the other hand we see — linked to the former group by its 
very contrast — the group of ideas attached to my friend in 
Berlin [Wilhelm Fliess], who did understand me, who would 
take my side, and to whom I owed so much valuable informa- 
tion, dealing, amongst other things, with the chemistry of the 
sexual processes. 

The recent exciting causes — the actual instigators of the 
dream — determined what W 2 is to attract my attention in the 
‘Otto’ group; the amyl was among these selected elements, 
which were predestined to form part of the dream-content. The 
copious ‘Wilhelm’ group was stirred up precisely through being 
in contrast to ‘Otto’, and those elements in it were emphasized 
which echoed those which were already stirred up in ‘Otto’. 
All through the dream, indeed, I kept on turning from someone 
who annoyed me to someone else who could be agreeably con- 
trasted with him; point by point, I called up a friend against an 
^ [A ceremonial portico on the model of the Athenian one.] 


opponent. Thus the amyl in the ‘Otto’ group produced memories 
from the field of chemistry in the other group; in this manner 
the trimethylamin, which was supported from several direc- 
tions, found its way into the dream-content. ‘Amyls’ itself 
might have entered the dream-content unmodified; but it came 
under the influence of the ‘Wilhelm’ group. For the whole range 
of memories covered by that name was searched through in 
order to find some element which could provide a two-sided 
determination for ‘amyls’. ‘Propyls’ was closely associated with 
‘amyls’, and Munich from the ‘Wilhelm’ group with its ‘pro- 
pylaea’ came half-way to meet it. The two groups of ideas con- 
verged in ‘propyls-propylaea’; and, as though by an act of com- 
promise, this intermediate element was what found its way into 
the dream-content. Here an intermediate common entity had 
been constructed which admitted of multiple determination. 
It is obvious, therefore, that multiple determination must make 
it easier for an element to force its way into the dream-content. 
In order to construct an intermediate link of this kind, attention 
is without hesitation displaced from what is actually intended 
on to some neighbouring association. 

Our study of the dream of Irma’s injection has already 
enabled us to gain some insight into the processes of condensa- 
tion during the formation of dreams. We have been able to 
observe certain of their details, such as how preference is given 
to elements that occur several times over in the dream-thoughts, 
how new unities are formed (in the shape of collective figures 
and composite structures), and how intermediate common 
entities are constructed. The further questions of the purpose of 
condensation and of the factors which tend to produce it will 
not be raised till we come to consider the whole question of the 
psychical processes at work in the formation of dreams. [See 
p. 330 and Chapter VII, Section E, especially p. 595 ff.] 
We will be content for the present with recognizing the fact 
that dream-condensation is a notable characteristic of the rela- 
tion between dream-thoughts and dream-content. 

The work of condensation in dreams is seen at its clearest 
when it handles words and names. It is true in general that 
words are treated in dreams as though they were concrete 
things, and for that reason they are apt to be combined in just 



the same way as presentations of concrete things.^ Dreams of 
this sort offer the most amusing and curious neologisms.® 


On one occasion a medical colleague had sent me a paper he 
had written, in which the importance of a recent physiological 
discovery was, in my opinion, overestimated, and in which, 
above all, the subject was treated in too emotional a manner. 
The next night I dreamt a sentence which clearly referred to 
this paper: ‘//’j written in a positively norekdal style.' The analysis 
of the word caused me some difficulty at first. There could be 
no doubt that it was a parody of the [German] superlatives 
'kolossaV and ‘pyramidal’', but its origin was not so easy to guess. 
At last I saw that the monstrosity was composed of the two 
names ‘Nora’ and ‘Ekdal’ — characters in two well-known plays 
of Ibsen’s. [A Doll's House and The Wild Duck.l Some time 
before, I had read a newspaper article on Ibsen by the same 
author whose latest work I was criticizing in the dream. 


One of my women patients told me a short dream which 
ended in a meaningless verbal compound. She dreamt she was 
with her husband at a peasant festivity and said: ‘This will end 
in a general “ Maistollmiitz” ’ In the dream she had a vague feel- 
ing that it was some kind of pudding made with maize — a sort 
of polenta. Analysis divided the word into ‘Mais' [‘maize’], 
‘toll’ [‘mad’], ‘mannstoir [‘nymphomaniac’ — literally ‘mad for 
men’] and Olmiitz [a town in Moravia]. All these fragments 
were found to be remnants of a conversation she had had at 
table with her relatives. The following words lay behind ‘Mais’ 
(in addition to a reference to the recently opened Jubilee Exhi- 
bition®) : ‘Meissen’ (a Meissen [Dresden] porcelain figure repre- 
senting a bird); ‘Miss’ (her relatives’ English governess had 

^ [The relation between presentations of words and of things was 
discussed by Freud very much later, in the last pages of his paper on the 
Unconscious (1915e).] 

® [A dream involving a number of verbal conceits is reported by 
Freud in Chapter V (10) of his Psychopathology of Everyday Life (19014). 
— The examples which follow are, as will be seen, for the most part 
untranslatable. See Editor’s Introduction (p. xxii).] 

® [To commemorate the jubilee of the Emperor Francis Joseph, 
which was celebrated in 1898.] 



just gone to Olmiitz)', and 'mies' (a Jewish slang term, used 
jokingly to mean ‘disgusting’). A long chain of thoughts and 
associations led off from each syllable of this verbal hotch- 

, ™ 

A young man, whose door-bell had been rung late one night 
by an acquaintance who wanted to leave a visiting-card on 
him, had a dream that night; A man had been working till late in 
the evening to put his house-telephone in order. After he had gone, it kept 
on ringing — not continuously, but with detached rings. His servant 
fetched the man back, and the latter remarked: ‘It's a funny thing that 
even people who are “tutelrein" as a rule are quite unable to deal with 
a thing like this.' 

It will be seen that the indifferent exciting cause of the 
dream only covers one element of it. That episode only obtained 
any importance from the fact that the dreamer put it in the 
same series as an earlier experience which, though equally 
indifferent in itself, was given a substitutive meaning by his 
imagination. When he was a boy, living with his father, he had 
upset a glass of water over the floor while he was half-asleep. 
The flex of the house-telephone had been soaked through and 
its continuous ringing had disturbed his father’s sleep. Since the 
continuous ringing corresponded to getting wet, the ‘detached 
rings' were used to represent drops falling. The word ‘tutelrein' 
could be analysed in three directions, and led in that way to 
three of the subjects represented in the dream-thoughts. ‘Tutel' 
is a legal term for ‘guardianship’ [‘tutelage’]. ‘ Tutel' (or possibly 
‘ Tuttel') is also a vulgar term for a woman’s breast. The remain- 
ing portion of the word, ‘rein' [‘clean’], combined with the first 
part of ‘ Zimmertelegraph' [‘house-telephone’], forms ‘zimmerrein' 
[‘house- trained’] — which is closely connected with making the 
floor wet, and, in addition, sounded very much like the name 
of a member of the dreamer’s family.^ 

^ In waking life this same kind of analysis and synthesis of syllables — 
a syllabic chemistry, in fact — plays a part in a great number of jokes: 
‘What is the cheapest way of obtaining silver? You go down an avenue 
of silver poplars \Pappeln, which means both “poplars” and “babbling”] 
and call for silence. The babbling then ceases and the silver is released. 
The first reader and critic of this book — and his successors are likely to 
follow his example — protested that ‘the dreamer seems to be too ingeni- 
ous and amusing’. Tliis is quite true so long as it refers only to the 




In a confused dream of my own of some length, whose central 
point seemed to be a sea voyage, it appeared that the next 
stopping place was called ^Hearsing' and the next after that 
‘Fliess’. This last word was the name of my friend in B[erlin], 
who has often been the goal of my travels. ‘Hearsing’ was a 
compound. One part of it was derived from the names of places 
on the suburban railway near Vienna, which so often end in 
‘ing’; Hietzing, Liesing, Mddling (Medelitz, ‘meae deliciae’, was 
its old name — that is ‘meine Freud' [‘my delight’]). The other 
part was derived from the English word ‘hearsay’. This sug- 
gested slander and established the dream’s connection with its 
indifferent instigator of the previous day: a poem in the periodi- 
cal Fliegende Blatter about a slanderous dwarf called ‘Sagter 
Hatergesagt’ [‘He-says Says-he’]. If the syllable ‘ing’ were 
to be added to the name ‘Fliess’ we should get ‘Vlissingen’, 
which was in fact the stopping-place on the sea voyage made 
by my brother whenever he visited us from England. But the 
English name for Vlissingen is ‘Flushing’, which in English 
means ‘blushing’ and reminded me of the patients I have 
treated for ereutophobia, and also of a recent paper on that 
neurosis by Bechtercw which had caused me some annoyance. 


On another occasion I had a dream which consisted of two 
separate pieces. The first piece was the word ‘Autodidasker’, 
dreamer; it would only be an objection if it were to be extended to the 
dream-interpreter. In waking reality I have little claim to be regarded 
as a wit. If my dreams seem amusing, that is not on my account, but on 
account of the peculiar psychological conditions under which dreams 
are constructed; and the fact is intimately connected with the theory of 
jokes and the comic. Dreams become ingenious and amusing because 
the direct and easiest pathway to the expression of their thoughts is 
barred: they are forced into being so. The reader can convince himself 
that my patients’ dreams seem at least as full of jokes and puns as my 
own, or even fuller. — [Added 1909:] Nevertheless this objection led me 
to compare the technique of jokes with the dream-work; and the results 
are to be found in the book which I published on Jtokes and their Relation 
to the Unconscious (1905c) [in particular in Chapter VI. — ^Towards the 
end of this chapter Freud remarks that dream-jokes are bad jokes, and 
explains why this should be so. The same point is made in Lecture XV 
of the Introductory Lectures (1916-17.) — ^The ‘first reader’ referred to 
above was Fliess, and the question is dealt with in a letter to him of 
September 11, 1899 (Freud, 1950u, Letter 118).] 



which I receiUed vividly. The second piece was an exact repro- 
duction of a short and harmless phantasy which I had produced 
some days before. This phantasy was to the effect that when I 
next saw Professor N. I must say to him: ‘The patient about 
whose condition I consulted you recently is in fact only suffering 
from a neurosis, just as you suspected.’ Thus the neologism 
‘Autodidasker’ must satisfy two conditions: firstly, it must bear 
or represent a composite meaning; and secondly, that meaning 
must be solidly related to the intention I had reproduced from 
waking life of making amends to Professor N. 

The word ‘Autodidasker’ could easily be analysed into ‘Autor’ 
[author], ‘Autodidakt’ [self-taught] and ‘Lasker’, with which I 
also associated the name of Lassalle.^ The first of these words 
led to the precipitating cause of the dream — this time a signi- 
ficant one. I had given my wife several volumes by a well- 
known [Austrian] writer who was a friend of my brother’s, and 
who, as I have learnt, was a native of my own birth-place: 
J. J. David. One evening she had told me of the deep impres- 
sion that had been made on her by the tragic story in one of 
David’s books of how a man of talent went to the bad; and our 
conversation had turned to a discussion of the gifts of which we 
saw signs in our own children. Under the impact of what she 
had been reading, my wife expressed concern about the chil- 
dren, and I consoled her with the remark that those were the 
very dangers which could be kept at bay by a good up-bringing. 
My train of thought was carried further during the night; I took 
up my wife’s concern and wove all kinds of other things into it. 
A remark made by the author to my brother on the subject of 
marriage showed my thoughts a by-path along which they 
might come to be represented in the dream. This path led to 
Breslau, where a lady with whom we were very friendly had 
gone to be married and settle down. The concern I felt over the 
danger of coming to grief over a woman — for that was the kernel 
of my dream-thoughts — found an example in Breslau in the 
cases of Lasker and Lassalle which made it possible to give a 
simultaneous picture of the two ways in which this fatal inBu- 

1 [Ferdinand Lassalle, founder of the German Social Democratic move- 
ment, was born at Breslau in 1825 and died in 1864. Eduard Lasker 
(1829-1884), born at Jarotschin, not far from Breslau, was one of the 
fotmders of the National Libei^ Party in Germany. Both were of 
Jewish origin.] 



ence can be exercised.^ 'Cherchez la femme', the phrase in which 
these thoughts could be summarized, led me, taken in another 
sense, to my still unmarried brother, whose name is Alexander. 
I now perceived that ‘Alex’, the shortened form of the name by 
which we call him, has almost the same sound as an anagram 
of ‘Lasker’, and that this factor must have had a share in leading 
my thoughts along the by-path by way of Breslau. 

The play which I was making here upon names and syllables 
had a still further sense, however. It expressed a wish that my 
brother might have a happy domestic life, and it did so in this 
way. In Zola’s novel of an artist’s life, Uceuvre, the subject of 
which must have been close to my dream-thoughts, its author, 
as is well known, introduced himself and his own domestic hap- 
piness as an episode. He appeal's imder the name of ‘Sandoz’. 
The transformation was probably arrived at as follows. If ‘Zola’ 
is written backwards (the sort of thing children are so fond of 
doing), we arrive at ‘Aloz’. No doubt this seemed too undis- 
guised. He therefore replaced ‘Al’, which is the first syllable of 
‘Alexander’ by ‘Sand’, which is the third syllable of the same 
name; and in this way ‘Sandoz’ came into being. My own 
‘Autodidasker’ arose in much the same fashion. 

I must now explain how my phantasy of telling Professor N. 
that the patient we had both examined was only suffering from 
a neurosis made its way into the dream. Shortly before the end 
of my woi'king year, I began tlie treatment of a new patient who 
quite baffled my powers of diagnosis. The presence of a grave 
organic disease — perhaps some degeneration of the spinal cord 
— strongly suggested itself but could not be established. It would 
have been tempting to diagnose a neurosis (which would have 
solved every difficulty), if only the patient had not repudiated 
with so much energy the sexual history without which I refuse 
to recognize the presence of a neurosis. In my embarrassment 
I sought help from the physician whom I, like many other 
people, respect more than any as a man and before whose 
authority I am readiest to bow. He listened to my doubts, told 
me they were justified, and then gave his opinion: ‘Keep the 
man under observation; it must be a neurosis.’ Since I knew he 

^ Lasker died of tabes, that is, as a result of an infection (syphilis) 
contracted from a woman; Lassalle, as everyone knows, fell in a duel on 
account of a woman. [George Meredith’s Tragic Comedians is based on 
his story.] 


did not share my views on the aetiology of the neuroses, I did 
not produce my counter-argument, but I made no concealment 
of my scepticism. A few days later I informed the patient that 
I could do nothing for him and recommended him to seek other 
advice. Whereupon, to my intense astonishment, he started 
apologizing for having lied to me. He had been too much 
ashamed of himself, he said, and went on to reveal precisely 
the piece of sexual aetiology which I had been expecting and 
without which I had been unable to accept his illness as a 
neurosis. I was relieved but at the same time humiliated. I had 
to admit that my consultant, not being led astray by considering 
the anamnesis, had seen more clearly than I had. And I pro- 
posed to tell him as much when I next met him — to tell him 
that he had been right and / wrong. 

This was precisely what I did in the dream. But what sort of 
a wish-fulfilment can there have been in confessing that I was 
wrong? To be wrong was, however, just what I did wish. I 
wanted to be wrong in my fears, or, more precisely, I wanted 
my wife, whose fears I had adopted in the dream-thoughts, to 
be wrong. The subject round which the question of right or 
wrong revolved in the dream was not far removed from what 
the dream-thoughts were really concerned with. There was the 
same alternative between organic and functional damage caused 
by a woman, or, more properly, by sexuality: tabetic paralysis 
or neurosis? (The manner of Lassalle’s death could be loosely 
classed in the latter category.) 

In this closely knit and, when it was carefully interpreted, 
very transparent dream. Professor N. played a part not only on 
account of this analogy and of my wish to be wrong, and on 
account of his incidental connections with Breslau and with the 
family of our friend who had settled there after her marriage — 
but also on account of the following episode which occurred at 
the end of our consultation. When he had given his opinion and 
so concluded our medical discussion, he turned to more personal 
subjects: ‘How many children have you got now?’ — ‘Six.’ — He 
made a gesture of admiration and concern. — ‘Girls or boys?’ — 
‘Three and three: they are my pride and my treasure.’ — ‘Well, 
now, be on your guard! Girls are safe enough, but bringing up 
boys leads to difficulties later on.’ — protested that mine had 
been very well behaved so far. Evidently this second diagnosis, 
on the future of my boys, pleased me no more than the earlier 



one, according to which my patient was suffering from a neurosis. 
Thus these two impressions were bound up together by their 
contiguity, by the fact of their having been experienced both at 
once; and in taking the story of the neurosis into my dream, I 
was substituting it for the conversation about up-bringing, 
which had more connection with the dream-thoughts, since it 
touched so closely upon the worries later expressed by my wife. 
So even my fear that N. might be right in what he said about 
the difficulty of bringing up boys had found a place in the 
dream, for it lay concealed behind the representation of my 
wish that I myself might be wrong in harbouring such fears. 
The same phantasy served unaltered to represent both of the 
opposing alternatives. 


‘Early this morning,^ between dreaming and waking, I 
experienced a very nice example of verbal condensation. In the 
course of a mass of dream-fragments that I could scarcely 
remember, I was brought up short, as it were, by a word which 
I saw before me as though it were half written and half printed. 
The word was “erzejilisch”, and it formed part of a sentence 
which slipped into my conscious memory apart from any con- 
text and in complete isolation: ‘‘That has an erzejilisch influence 
on the sexual emotions.” I knew at once that the word ought 
really to have been "erzie/ierisck” [“educational”]. And I was in 
doubt for some time whether the second “e” in "erzejilisch" 
should not have been an “i”.* In that connection the word 
“syphilis” occurred to me and, starting to analyse the dream 
while I was still half asleep, I racked my brains in an effort to 
make out how that word could have got into my dream, since 
I had nothing to do with the disease either personally or pro- 
fessionally. I then thought of “erzehlerisch" [another nonsense 

^ Quoted from Marcinowski [1911]. [This paragraph was added in 

“ [This ingenious example of condensation turns upon the pronun- 
ciation of the second syllable — the stressed syllable — of the nonsense 
word. If it is ‘ze’, it is pronounced roughly like the English ‘tsay’, thus 
resembling the second syllable of ‘erzahlen’ and of the invented ‘erzehler- 
isch’. If it is ‘zi’, it is pronounced roughly like the English ‘tsee’, thus 
resembling the second syllable ot^erzieherisch’, as well as (less closely) the 
first syllable of ‘syphilis’.] 



word], and this explained the “e” of the second syllable of 
“erzejilisch'’ by reminding me that the evening before I had been 
asked by our governess lErzieherin} to say something to her on 
the problem of prostitution, and had given her Hesse’s book on 
prostitution in order to influence her emotional life — ^for this 
had not developed quite normally; after which I had talked 
[erzdklt] a lot to her on the problem. I then saw all at once that 
the word “syphilis” was not to be taken literally, but stood for 
“poison” — of course in relation to sexual life. When translated, 
therefore, the sentence in the dream ran quite logically: “My 
talk [ErzdAlung] was intended to have an educational [erziehriscA] 
influence on the emotional life of our governess [ErzteAerin] ; but 
I fear it may at the same time have had a poisonous effect.” 
“Erzejilisch" was compounded from “erzdh-” and “erzieh-".' 

The verbal malformations in dreams greatly resemble those 
which are familiar in paranoia but which are also present in 
hysteria and obsessions. The linguistic tricks performed by 
children,^ who sometimes actually treat words as though they 
were objects and moreover invent new languages and artificial 
syntactic forms, are the common source of these things in 
dreams and psychoneuroses alike. 

The analysis of the nonsensical verbal forms that occur in 
dreams ^ is particularly well calculated to exhibit the dream- 
work’s achievements in the way of condensation. The reader 
should not conclude from the paucity of the instances which I 
have given that material of this kind is rare or observed at all 
exceptionally. On the contrary, it is very common. But as a 
result of the fact that dream-interpretation is dependent upon 
psycho-analytic treatment, only a very small number of in- 
stances are observed and recorded and the analyses of such 
instances are as a rule only intelligible to experts in the pathology 
of the neuroses. Thus a dream of this kind was reported by Dr. 
von Karpinska (1914) containing the nonsensical verbal form: 
'Svingnum elvi’. It is also worth mentioning those cases in which 
a word appears in a dream which is not in itself meaningless but 
which has lost its proper meaning and combines a number 
of other meanings to which it is related in just the same way 
as a ‘meaningless’ word would be. This is what occurred, for 

I [See Chapter IV of Freud’s book on jokes (1905e).] 

* [This paragraph was added in 1916.] 



instance, in the ten-year-old boy’s dream of a ‘category’ which 
was recorded by Tausk (1913). ‘Category’ in that case meant 
‘female genitals’ and to ‘categorate’ meant the same as ‘to 

Where spoken sentences occur in dreams and are expressly 
distinguished as such from thoughts, it is an invariable rule that 
the words spoken in the dream are derived from spoken words 
remembered in the dream-material. The text of the speech is 
cither retained unaltered or expressed with some slight displace- 
ment. A speech in a dream is often put together from various 
recollected speeches, the text remaining the same but being 
given, if possible, several meanings, or one different from the 
original one. A spoken remark in a dream is not infrequently 
no more than an allusion to an occasion on which the remark in 
question was made.^ 

^ [Footnote added 1909:] Not long ago I found a single exception to this 
rule in the case of a young man who suffered from obsessions while 
retaining intact his highly developed intellectual powers. The spoken 
words which occurred in his dreams were not derived from remarks 
which he had heard or made himself. They contained the undistorted 
text of his obsessional thoughts, which in his waking life only reached his 
consciousness in a modified form. [This young man was the subject of 
Freud’s case history of an obsessional neurotic (the ‘Rat Man’); a refer- 
ence to this point will be found there (Freud, 1909d) near the beginning 
of Section 11(A). — ^The question of spoken words in dreams is dealt with 
much more fully below on p. 418 if.] 



In making our collection of instances of condensation in 
dreams, the existence of another relation, probably of no less 
importance, had already become evident. It could be seen that 
the elements which stand out as the principal components of 
the manifest content of the dream are far from playing the same 
part in the dream-thoughts. And, as a corollary, the converse of 
this assertion can be affirmed; what is clearly the essence of the 
dream-thoughts need not be represented in the dream at all. 
The dream is, as it were, differently centred from the dream- 
thoughts — its content has different elements as its central point. 
Thus in the dream of the botanical monograph [p. 169 ff.], 
for instance, the central point of the dream-content was 
obviously the element ‘botanical’; whereas the dream-thoughts 
were concerned with the complications and conflicts arising 
between colleagues from their professional obligations, and 
further with the charge that I was in the habit of sacrificing too 
much for the sake of my hobbies. The element ‘botanical’ had 
no place whatever in this core of the dream-thoughts, unless it 
was loosely connected with it by an antithesis — the fact that 
botany never had a place among my favourite studies. In my 
patient’s Sappho dream [p. 285 ff.] the central position was 
occupied by climbing up and down and being up above and 
down below; the dream-thoughts, however, dealt with the 
dangers of sexual relations with people of an inferior social class. 
So that only a single element of the dream-thoughts seems to 
have found its way into the dream-content, though that element 
was expanded to a disproportionate extent. Similarly, in the 
dream of the may-beetles [p. 289 ff.], the topic of which was 
the relations of sexuality to cruelty, it is true that the factor of 
cruelty emerged in the dream-content; but it did so in another 
connection and without any mention of sexuality, that is to say, 
divorced from its context and consequently transformed into 
something extraneous. Once again, in my dream about my 
uncle [p. 136 ff.], the fair beard which formed its centre-point 
seems to have had no connection in its meaning with my 
I.D. — IV 305 Y|, 



ambitious wishes which, as we saw, were the core of the dream- 
thoughts. Dreams such as these give a justifiable impression of 
‘displacement’. In complete contrast to these examples, we can 
see that in the dream of Irma’s injection [p. 106 IF.] the dif- 
ferent elements were able to retain, during the process of con- 
structing the dream, the approximate place which they occupied 
in the dream-thoughts. This further relation between the dream- 
thoughts and the dream-content, wholly variable as it is in its 
sense or direction, is calculated at first to create astonishment. 
If we are considering a psychical process in normal life and find 
that one out of its several component ideas has been picked out 
and has acquired a special degree of vividness in consciousness, 
we usually regard this effect as evidence that a specially high 
amount of psychical value — some particular degree of interest 
— attaches to this predominant idea. But we now discover that, 
in the case of the different elements of the dream-thoughts, a 
value of this kind does not persist or is disregarded in the process 
of dream-formation. There is never any doubt as to which of 
the elements of the dream-thoughts have the highest psychical 
value; we learn that by direct judgement. In the course of the 
formation of a dream these essential elements, charged, as they 
are, with intense interest, may be treated as though they were 
of small value, and their place may be taken in the dream by 
other elements, of whose small value in the dream-thoughts 
there can be no question. At first sight it looks as though no 
attention whatever is paid to the psychical intensity^ of the 
various ideas in making the choice among them for the dream, 
and as though the only thing considered is the greater or less 
degree of multiplicity of their determination. What appears in 
dreams, we might suppose, is not what is important in the dream- 
thoughts but what occurs in them several times over. But this 
hypothesis does not greatly assist our understanding of dream- 
formation, since from the nature of things it seems clear that the 
two factors of multiple determination and inherent psychical 
value must necessarily operate in the same sense. The ideas 
which are most important among the dream-thoughts will 
almost certainly be those which occur most often in them, since 
the different dream-thoughts will, as it were, radiate out from 

^ Psychical intensity or value or the degree of interest of an idea is of 
course to be distinguished from sensory intensity or the intensity of the 
image presented. 



them. Nevertheless a dream can reject elements which are thus 
both highly stressed in themselves and reinforced from many 
directions, and can select for its content other elements which 
possess only the second of these attributes. 

In order to solve this difficulty we shall make use of another 
impression derived from our enquiry [in the previous section] 
into the overdetermination of the dream-content. Perhaps some 
of those who have read that enquiry may already have formed 
an independent conclusion that the overdetermination of the 
elements of dreams is no very important discovery, since it is a 
self-evident one. For in analysis we start out from the dream- 
elements and note down all the associations which lead off from 
them; so that there is nothing surprising in the fact that in the 
thought-material arrived at in this way we come across these 
same elements with peculiar frequency. I cannot accept this 
objection; but I will myself put into words something that 
sounds not unlike it. Among the thoughts that analysis brings 
to light are many which are relatively remote from the kernel of 
the dream and which look like artificial interpolations made for 
some particular purpose. That purpose is easy to divine. It is 
precisely they that constitute a connection, often a forced and 
far-fetched one, between the dream-content and the dream- 
thoughts; and if these elements were weeded out of the analysis 
the result would often be that the component parts of the dream- 
content would be left not only without overdetermination but 
without any satisfactory determination at all. We shall be led to 
conclude that the multiple determination which decides what 
shall be included in a dream is not always a primary factor 
in dream-construction but is often the secondary product of a 
psychical force which is still unknown to us. Nevertheless 
multiple determination must be of importance in choosing what 
particular elements shall enter a dream, since we can see that a 
considerable expenditure of effort is used to bring it about in 
cases where it does not arise from the dream-material unassisted. 

It thus seems plausible to suppose that in the dream-work a 
psychical force is operating which on the one hand strips the 
elements which have a high psychical value of their intensity, 
and on the other hand, by means of overdetermination, creates from 
elements of low psychical value new values, which afterwards 
find their way into the dream-content. If that is so, a transference 
and displacement of p^chical intensities occurs in the process of 



dream-formation, and it is as a result of these that the difference 
between the text of the dream-content and that of the dream- 
thoughts comes about. The process which we are here presum- 
ing is nothing less than the essential portion of the dream- 
work; and it deserves to be described as ‘dream-displacement’. 
Dream-displacement and dream-condensation are the two 
governing factors to whose activity we may in essence ascribe 
the form assumed by dreams. 

Nor do I think we shall have any difficulty in recognizing the 
psychical force which manifests itself in the facts of dream- 
displacement. The consequence of the displacement is that the 
dream-content no longer resembles the core of the dream- 
thoughts and that the dream gives no more than a distortion 
of the dream-wish which exists in the unconscious. But we are 
already familiar with dream-distortion. We traced it back to 
the censorship which is exercised by one psychical agency in the 
mind over another. [See p. 141 ff.] Dream-displacement is one 
of the chief methods by which that distortion is achieved. Is 
fecit cuiprqfuit.^ We may assume, then, that dream-displacement 
comes about through the influence of the same censorship — that 
is, the censorship of endopsychic defence.* 

The question of the interplay of these factors — of displace* 
ment, condensation and overdetermination — ^in the construc- 
tion of dreams, and the question which is a dominant factor 
and which a subordinate one — all of this we shall leave aside 
for later investigation. [See e.g. p. 405 ff.] But we can state 
provisionally a second condition which must be satisfied by 
those elements of the dream-thoughts which make their way 
into the dream: they must escape the censorship imposed by resistance.^ 
And henceforward in interpreting dreams we shall take dream- 
displacement into account as an undeniable fact. 

^ [The old legal tag; ‘He did the deed who gained by it.’] 

“ [Footnote added 1909:] Since I may say that the kernel of my theory of 
dreams lies in my derivation of dream-distortion from the censorship, I 
will here insert the last part of a story from Phantasien eines Itealisten 
[Phantasies of a Realist] by ‘Lynkeus’ (Vienna, 2nd edition, 1900 [1st 
edition, 1899]), in which I have found this principal feature of my 
theory once more expounded. [See above, Postscript, 1909, to Chapter I, 
p. 94 f.; also Freud, 192yand 1932c.] The title of the story is ‘Traumen 
wie Wachen’ [‘Dreaming like Waking’] ; 

‘About a man who has the remarkable attribute of never dreaming 
nonsense. . . . 



‘ “This splendid gift of yours, for dreaming as though you were wak- 
ing, is a consequence of your virtues, of your kindness, your sense of 
justice, and your love of truth; it is the moral serenity of your nature 
which makes me understand all about you.” 

‘ “But when I think the matter over properly”, replied the other, “I 
almost believe that everyone is made like me, and that no one at all ever 
dreams nonsense. Any dream which one can remember clearly enough 
to describe it afterwards — any dream, that is to say, which is not a 
fever-dream — ^must always make sense, and it cannot possibly be other- 
wise. For things that were mutually contradictory could not group 
themselves into a single whole. The fact that time and space are often 
thrown into confusion does not affect the true content of the dream, 
since no doubt neither of them are of significance for its real essence. We 
often do the same thing in waking life. Only think of fairy tales and of 
the many daring products of the imagination, which are full of meaning 
and of which only a man without intelligence could say: ‘This is non- 
sense, for it’s impossible.’ ” 

‘ “If only one always knew how to interpret dreams in the right way, 
as you have just done with mine!” said his friend. 

‘ “That is certainly no easy task; but with a little attention on the part 
of the dreamer himself it should no doubt always succeed. — ^You ask 
why it is that for the most part it does not succeed? In you other people 
there seems always to be something that lies concealed in your dreams, 
something unchaste in a special and higher sense, a certain secret 
quality in your being which it is hard to follow. And that is why your 
dreams so often seem to be without meaning or even to be nonsense. 
But in the deepest sense this is not in the least so; indeed, it caimot be so 
at all — ^for it is always the same man, whether he is awake or dream- 
ing.” ’ 

” [The first condition being that they must be overdetermined. (See 
p. 307.)] 



In the process of transforming the latent thoughts into the 
manifest content of a dream we have found two factors at work: 
dream-condensation and dream-displacement. As we continue 
our investigation we shall, in addition to these, come across two 
further determinants which exercise an undoubted influence on 
the choice of the material which is to find access to the dream. 

But first, even at the risk of appearing to bring our progress to 
a halt, I should like to take a preliminary glance at the pro- 
cesses involved in carrying out the interpretation of a dream. 
I cannot disguise from myself that the easiest way of making 
those processes clear and of defending their trustworthiness 
against criticism would be to take some particular dream as a 
sample, go through its interpretation (just as I have done with 
the dream of Irma’s injection in my second chapter), and then 
collect the dream-thoughts which I have discovered and go on 
to reconstruct from them the process by which the dream was 
formed — in other words, to complete a dream-analysis by a 
dream-synthesis. I have in fact carried out that task for my own 
instruction on several specimens; but I cannot reproduce them 
here, since I am forbidden to do so for reasons connected with 
the nature of the psychical material involved — reasons which 
are of many kinds and which will be accepted as valid by any 
reasonable person. Such considerations interfered less in the 
analysis of dreams, since an analysis could be incomplete and 
nevertheless retain its value, even though it penetrated only a 
small way into the texture of the dream. But in the case of the 
synthesis of a dream I do not see how it can be convincing unless 
it is complete. I could only give a complete synthesis of dreams 
dreamt by people unknown to the reading public. Since, how- 
ever, this condition is fulfilled only by my patients, who are 
neurotics, I must postpone this part of my exposition of the 
subject till I am able — in another volume — to carry the psycho- 
logical elucidation of neuroses to a point at which it can make 
contact with our present topic. ^ 

^ [Footnote added 1909:] Since writing the above words, I have pub- 
lished a complete analysis and synthesis of two dreams in my ‘Fragment 




My attempts at building up dreams by sunthesis from the 
dream-thoughts have taught me that the material which 
emerges in the courseStf jxiterpretation is not all of the same 
value. One part of it is made up of the essential dream- thoughts 
— those, that is, which completely replace the dream, and 
which, if there were no censorship of dreams, would be sufficient 
in themselves to replace it. The other part of the material is 
usually to be regarded as of less importance. Nor is it possible 
to support the view that all the thoughts of this second kind had 
a share in the formation of the dream. [See pp. 280 and 532.] 
On the contrary, there may be associations among them which 
relate to events that occurred after the dream, between the 
times of dreaming and interpreting. This part of the material 
includes all the connecting paths that led from the manifest 
dream-content to the latent dream-thoughts, as well as the 
intermediate and linking associations by means of which, in the 
course of the process of interpretation, we came to discover 
these connecting paths. ^ 

We are here interested only in the essential dream-thoughts. 
These usually emerge as a complex of thoughts and memories 

of the Analysis of a Case of Hysteria’ [Freud, 1905« (Sections II and 
III). See also the synthesis of the ‘Wolf Man’s’ dream in Section IV of 
Freud (1918i). — Added 1914:] Otto Rank’s analysis, ‘Ein Traum, der 
sich selbst deutet’ [‘A Dream which Interprets Itself’, 1910], deserves 
mention as the most complete interpretation that has been published 
of a dream of considerable length. 

^ [The last four sentences (beginning with ‘the other part of the 
material’) date in their present form from 1919. In editions earlier than 
that, this passage ran as follows: ‘The other part of the material may be 
brought together under the term “collaterals”. As a whole, they consti- 
tute the paths over which the true wish, which arises from the dream- 
thoughts, passes before becoming the dream-wish. The first set of these 
“collaterals” consist in derivatives from the dream-thoughts proper; they 
are, schematically regarded, displacements from what is essential to 
what is inessential. A second set of them comprise the thoughts that con- 
nect these inessential elements (which have become important owing to 
displacement) with one another, and extend from them to the dream- 
content. Finally, a third set consist in the associations and trains of 
thought by means of which the work of interpretation leads us from the 
dream-content to the second group of collaterals. It need not be sup- 
posed that the whole of this third set were necessarily also concerned in 
the formation of the dream.’ With reference to this passage Freud 
remarks in Ges. Schr., J (1925), 55 that he has dropped the term ‘col- , 
laterals’. In fact, however, the term has survived below on p. 532.] 



of the most intricate possible structure, with all the attributes 
of the trains of thought familiar to us in waking life. They are 
not infrequently trains of thought starting out from more than 
one centre, though having points of contact. Each train of 
thought is almost invariably accompanied by its contradictory 
counterpart, linked with it by antithetical association. 

The different portions of this complicated structure stand, of 
course, in the most manifold logical relations to one another. 
They can represent foreground and background, digressions 
and illustrations, conditions, chains of evidence and counter- 
arguments. When the whole mass of these dream-thoughts is 
brought under the pressure of the dream-work, and its elements 
are turned about, broken into fragments and jammed together 
— almost like pack-ice — the question arises of what happens to 
the logical connections which have hitherto formed its frame- 
work. What representation do dreams provide for ‘if’, ‘because’, 
‘just as’, ‘although’, ‘either — or’, and all the other conjunctions 
without which we cannot understand sentences or speeches? 

In the first resort our answer must be that dreams have no 
means at their disposal for representing these logical relations 
between the dream-thoughts. For the most part dreams dis- 
regard all these conjunctions, and it is only the substantive con- 
tent of the dream-thoughts that they take over and manipulate.^ 
The restoration of the connections which the dream-work has 
destroyed is a task which has to be performed by the interpreta- 
tive process. 

The incapacity of dreams to express these things must lie in 
the nature of the psychical material out of which dreams are 
made. The plastic arts of painting and sculpture labour, indeed, 
under a similar limitation as compared with poetry, which can 
make use of speech; and here once again the reason for their 
incapacity lies in the nature of the material which these two 
forms of art manipulate in their effort to express something. 
Before painting became acquainted with the laws of expression 
by which it is governed, it made attempts to get over this 
handicap. In ancient paintings small labels were hung from the 
mouths of the persons represented, containing in written char- 
acters the speeches which the artist despaired of representing 

At this point an objection may perhaps be raised in dispute 

^ [A qualification of this statement will be found below, p. 430 n.] 


of the idea that dreams are unable to represent logical relations. 
For there are dreams in which the most complicated intellectual 
operations take place, statements are contradicted or confirmed, 
ridiculed or compared, just as they are in waking thought. But 
here again appearances are deceitful. If we go into the inter- 
pretation of dreams such as these, we find that the whole of this 
is part of the material of the dream-thoughts and is not a representation 
of intellectual work performed during the dream itself. What is repro- 
duced by the ostensible thinking in the dream is the subject- 
matter of the dream-thoughts and not the mutual relations between 
them, the assertion of which constitutes thinking. I shall bring 
forward some instances of this. [See p. 441 ff.] But the easiest 
point to establish in this connection is that all spoken sentences 
which occur in dreams and are specifically described as such 
are unmodified or slightly modified reproductions of speeches 
which are also to be found among the recollections in the 
material of the dream-thoughts. A speech of this kind is often 
no more than an allusion to some event included among the 
dream-thoughts, and the meaning of the dream may be a 
totally different one, [See p. 418 ff.] 

Nevertheless, I will not deny that critical thought-activity 
which is not a mere repetition of material in the dream-thoughts 
does have a share in the formation of dreams. I shall have to 
elucidate the part played by this factor at the end of the present 
discussion. It will then become apparent that this thought- 
activity is not produced by the dream-thoughts but by the 
dream itself after it has already, in a certain sense, been com- 
pleted. [See the last Section of this Chapter (p. 488) .] 

Provisionally, then, it may be said that the logical relations 
between the dream-thoughts are not given any separate repre- 
sentation in dreams. For instance, if a contradiction occurs in 
a dream, it is either a contradiction of the dream itself or a 
contradiction derived from the subject-matter of one of the 
dream-thoughts. A contradiction in a dream can only corre- 
spond in an exceedingly indirect manner to a contradiction 
between the dream-thoughts. But just as the art of painting 
eventually found a way of expressing, by means other than the 
Boating labels, at least the intention of the words of the per- 
sonages represented — affection, threats, warnings, and so on — 
so too there is a possible means by which dreams can take 
account of some of the logical relations between their dream- 



thoughts, by making an appropriate modification in the method 
of representation characteristic of dreams. Experience shows 
that different dreams vary greatly in this respect. While somcs 
dreams completely disregard the logical sequence of their 
material, others attempt to give as full an indication of it as 
possible. In doing so dreams depart sometimes more and some- 
times less widely from the text that is at their disposal for 
manipulation. Incidentally dreams vary similarly in their treat- 
ment of the chronological sequence of the dream-thoughts, if such 
a sequence has been established in the unconscious (as, for 
instance, in the dream of Irma’s injection. [P. 106 ff.]). 

What means does the dream-work possess for indicating these 
relations in the dream-thoughts which it is so hard to represent? 
I will attempt to enumerate them one by one. 

In the first place, dreams take into account in a general way 
the connection which undeniably exists between all the portions 
of the dream-thoughts by combining the whole material into a 
single situation or event. They reproduce logical connection by 
simultaneity in time. Here they are acting like the painter who, in 
a picture of the School of Athens or of Parnassus, represents in 
one group all the philosophers or all the poets. It is true that 
they were never in fact assembled in a single hall or on a 
single mountain- top; but they certainly form a group in the 
conceptual sense. 

Dreams carry this method of reproduction down to details. 
Whenever they show us two elements close together, this 
guarantees that there is some specially intimate connection 
between what correspond to them among the dream-thoughts. 
In the same way, in our system of writing, ‘a6’ means that the 
two letters are to be pronounced in a single syllable. If a gap is 
left between the ‘a’ and the ‘i’, it means that the ‘a’ is the last 
letter of one word and the 'b' is the first of the next one.^ So, 
too, collocations in dreams do not consist of any chance, dis- 
connected portions of the dream-material, but of portions which 
are fairly closely connected in the dream-thoughts as well. 

For representing causal relations dreams have two procedures 

^ [This simile is a favourite one of Freud’s. He uses it above on p. 247 
and again in the middle of Section I of the case history of Dora (1905f). 
It is possibly derived from a lyric of Goethe’s (‘Schwer in Waldes 
Busch’) in which the same image occurs.] 


which are in essence the same. Suppose the dream-thoughts run 
like this; ‘Since this was so and so, such and such was bound to 
happen.’ Then the commoner method of representation would 
be to introduce the dependent clause as an introductory dream 
and to add the principal clause as the main dream. If I have 
interpreted aright, the temporal sequence may be reversed. But 
the more extensive part of the dream always corresponds to the 
principal clause. 

One of my women patients once produced an excellent 
instance of this way of representing causality in a dream which 
I shall later record ully. [See p. 347 ff.; also discussed on 
pp. 319 and 325.] It consisted of a short prelude and a very 
diffuse piece of dream which was centred to a marked degree 
on a single theme and might be entitled ‘The Language of 

The introductory dream was as follows: She went into the 
kitchen, where her two maids were, and found fault with them for not 
having got her ‘bite of food’’ ready. At the same time she saw a very 
large quantity of common kitchen crockery standing upside down in the 
kitchen to drain; it was piled up in heaps. The two maids went to fetch 
some water and had to step into a kind of river which came right up to 
the house or into the yard. The main dream then followed, begin- 
ning thus: She was descending from a height over some strangely con- 
structed palisades, and felt glad that her dress was not caught in them . . . 

The introductory dream related to the dreamer’s parents’ 
home. No doubt she had often heard her mother using the 
words that occurred in the dream. The heaps of common 
crockery were derived from a modest hardware shop which was 
located in the same building. The other part of the dream con- 
tained a reference to her father, who used always to run after 
the maids and who eventually contracted a fatal illness during 
a flood. (The house stood near a river-bank.) Thus the thought 
concealed behind the introductory dream ran as follows: ‘Be- 
cause I was born in this house, in such mean and depressing 
circumstances . . .’ The main dream took up the same thought 
and presented it in a form modified by wish-fulfilment: ‘I am 
of high descent.’ Thus the actual underlying thought was: 
‘Because I am of such low descent, the course of my life has 
been so and so.’ 

The division of a dream into two unequal parts does not 



invariably, so far as I can see, signify that there is a causal 
relation between the thoughts behind the two parts. It often 
seems as though the same material were being represented in 
the two dreams from different points of view. (This is certainly 
the case where a series of dreams during one night end in an 
emission or orgasm — a series in which the somatic need finds 
its way to progressively clearer expression.) ^ Or the two dreams 
may have sprung from separate centres in the dream-material, 
and their content may overlap, so that what is the centre in one 
dream is present as a mere hint in the other, and vice versa. 
But in a certain number of dreams a division into a shorter 
preliminary dream and a longer sequel does in fact signify that 
there is a causal relation between the two pieces. 

The other method of representing a causal relation is adapted 
to less extensive material and consists in one image in the dream, 
whether of a person or thing, being transformed into another. 
The existence of a causal relation is only to be taken seriously 
if the transformation actually occurs before our eyes and not 
if we merely notice that one thing has appeared in the place of 

I have said that the two methods of representing a causal 
relation were in essence the same. In both cases causation is 
represented by temporal sequence: in one instance by a sequence 
of dreams and in the other by the direct transformation of one 
image into another. In the great majority of cases, it must be 
confessed, the causal relation is not represented at all but is lost 
in the confusion of elements which inevitably occurs in the 
process of dreaming. 

The alternative ‘either — or’ cannot be expressed in dreams 
in any way whatever. Both of the alternatives are usually in- 
serted in the text of the dream as though they were equally 
valid. The dream of Irma’s injection contains a classic instance 
of this. Its latent thoughts clearly ran [see p. 119]: ‘I am not 
responsible for the persistence of Irma’s pains; the responsibility 
lies either in her recalcitrance to accepting my solution, or in the 
unfavourable sexual conditions under which she lives and which 
I cannot alter, or in the fact that her pains are not hysterical at 

^ [This sentence was added in 1914. The point is further mentioned 
on p. 335 and discussed at greater length on pp. 402-3. The whole sub- 
ject of dreams occurring on the same night is dealt with on p. 333 ff.] 



all but of an organic nature.’ The dream, on the other hand, 
fulfilled all of these possibilities (which were almost mutually 
exclusive), and did not hesitate to add a fourth solution, based 
on the dream-wish. After interpreting the dream, I proceeded 
to insert the ‘either — or’ into the context of the dream- 

If, however, in reproducing a dream, its narrator feels in- 
clined to make use of an ‘either — or’ — e.g. ‘it was either a garden 
or a sitting-room’ — ^what was present in the dream-thoughts 
was not an alternative but an ‘and’, a simple addition. An 
‘either — or’ is mostly used to describe a dream-element that has 
a quality of vagueness — which, however, is capable of being 
resolved. In such cases the rule for interpretation is: treat the 
two apparent alternatives as of equal validity and link them 
together with an ‘and’. 

For instance, on one occasion a friend of mine was stopping in 
Italy and I had been without his address for a considerable 
time. I then had a dream of receiving a telegram containing this 
address. I saw it printed in blue on the telegraph form. The 
first word was vague: 

‘FiV, perhaps "] 

or 'Villa' >; the second was clear: 'Secerno'. 

or possibly even {'Casa') j 

The second word sounded like some Italian name and re- 
minded me of discussions I had had with my fnend on the 
subject of etymology. It also expressed my anger with him for 
having kept his address secret from me for so long. On the other 
hand, each of the three alternatives for the first word turned out 
on analysis to be an independent and equally valid starting- 
point for a chain of thoughts.^ 

During the night before my father’s funeral I had a dream of 
a printed notice, placard or poster — rather like the notices for- 
bidding one to smoke in railway waiting-rooms — on which 
appeared either 

‘You are requested to close the eyes’ 
or, ‘You are requested to close an eye’. 

1 [This dream will be found described in greater detail in Freud’s 
letter to Fliess (the friend in question) of April 28, 1897. See Freud, 
1950<i, Letter 60.] 



I usually write this in the form: 


‘You are requested to close eye(s).’ 


Each of these two versions had a meaning of its own and led 
in a different direction when the dream was interpreted. I had 
chosen the simplest possible ritual for the funeral, for I knew my 
father’s own views on such ceremonies. But some other members 
of the family were not sympathetic to such puritanical sim- 
plicity and thought we should be disgraced in the eyes of those 
who attended the funeral. Hence one of the versions: ‘You are 
requested to close an eye’, i.e. to ‘wink at’ or ‘overlook’. Here it 
is particularly easy to see the meaning of the vagueness expressed 
by the ‘either — or’. The dream-work failed to establish a unified 
wording for the dream-thoughts which could at the same time 
be ambiguous, and the two main lines of thought consequently 
began to diverge even in the manifest content of the dream.^ 

In a few instances the difficulty of representing an alternative 
is got over by dividing the dream into two pieces of equal length. 

The way in %vhich dreams treat the category of contraries and 
contradictories is highly remarkable. It is simply disregarded. 
‘No’ seems not to exist so far as dreams are concerned.^ They 
show a particular preference for combining contraries into a 
unity or for representing them as one and the same thing. 
Dreams feel themselves at liberty, moreover, to represent any 
element by its wishful contrary; so that there is no way of 
deciding at a first glance whether any element that admits of 
a contrary is present in the dream-thoughts as a positive or as 
a negative.® 

1 [This dream is reported by Freud in a letter to Fliess of November 2, 
1896. (See Freud, 1950a, Letter 50.) It is there stated to have occurred 
during the night after the funeral.] 

“ [Qualifications of this assertion occur on pp. 326, 337 and 434. — In 
its first wording the dream referred to closing the dead man’s eyes as a 
filial duty.] 

® [Footnote added 1911:] I was astonished to learn from a pamphlet 
by K. Abel, The Antithetical Meaning of Primal Words (1884) (cf. my 
review of it, ]910e) — ^and the fact has been confirmed by other philolo- 
gists — that the most ancient languages behave exactly like dreams in 
this respect. In the first instance they have only a single word to describe 
the two contraries at the extreme ends of a series of qualities or activities 
(e.g. ‘strong-weak’, ‘old-young’, ‘far-near’, ‘bind-sever’) ; they only form 


In one of the dreams recorded just above, the first clause of 
which has already been interpreted (‘because my descent was 
such and such’ [see p. 315]), the dreamer saw herself climb- 
ing down over some palisades holding a lossoming branch in 
her hand. In connection with this imag she thought of the 
angel holding a spray of lilies in pictures of the Annunciation 
— her own name was Maria — and of girls in white robes walk- 
ing in Corpus Christi processions, when the streets are decorated 
with green branches. Thus the blossoming branch in the dream 
without any doubt alluded to sexual innocence. However, the 
branch was covered with red flowers, each of which was like a 
camellia. By the end of her walk — ^so the dream went on — the 
blossoms were already a good deal faded. There then followed 
some unmistakable allusions to menstruation. Accordingly, the 
same branch which was carried like a lily and as though by an 
innocent girl was at the same time an allusion to the Dame aux 
camelias who, as we know, usually wore a white camellia, except 
during her periods, when she wore a red one. The same 
blossoming branch (cf. ‘des Madchens Bliiten’ [‘the maiden’s 
blossoms’] in Goethe’s poem ‘Der Mullerin Verrat’) represented 
both sexual innocence and its contrary. And the same dream 
which expressed her joy at hawng succeeded in passing through 
life immaculately gave one glimpses at certain points (e.g. in the 
fading of the blossoms) of the contrary train of ideas — of her 
having been guilty of various sins against sexual purity (in her 
childhood, that is). In analysing the dream it was possible 
clearly to distinguish the two trains of thought, of which the con- 
soling one seemed the more superficial and the self-reproachful 
one the deeper-lying — ^trains of thought which were diametric- 
ally opposed to each other but whose similar though contrary 
elements were represented by the same elements in the manifest 
dream. ^ 

One and one only of these logical relations is very highly 
favoured by the mechanism of dream-formation; namely, the 

distinct terms for the two contraries by a secondary process of making 
small modifications in the common word. Abel demonstrates this par- 
ticularly from Ancient Egyptian; but he shows that there are distinct 
traces (£ the same course of development in the Semitic and Indo- 
Germanic languages as well. [See also p. 471.] 

1 [The dream is fully reported on p. 347 bedow.] 


relation of similarity, consonance or approximation — the rela- 
tion of ‘just as’. This relation, unlike any other, is capable of 
being represented in dreams in a variety of ways.^ Parallels or 
instances of ‘just as’ inherent in the material of the dream- 
thoughts constitute the first foundations for the construction of 
a dream; and no inconsiderable part of the dream-work con- 
sists in creating fresh parallels where those which are already 
present cannot find their way into the dream owing to the 
censorship imposed by resistance. The representation of the 
relation of similarity is assisted by the tendency of the dream- 
work towards condensation. 

Similarity, consonance, the possession of common attributes 
— all these are represented in dreams by unification, which may 
either be present already in the material of the dream-thoughts 
or may be freshly constructed. The first of these possibilities may 
be described as ‘identification’ and the second as ‘composition’. 
Identification is employed where persons are concerned; com- 
position where things are the material of the unification. Never- 
theless composition may also be applied to persons. Localities 
are often treated like persons. 

In identification, only one of the persons who are linked by a 
common element succeeds in being represented in the manifest 
content of the dream, while the second or remaining persons 
seem to be suppressed in it. But this single covering figure 
appears in the dream in all the relations and situations which 
apply either to him or to the figures which he covers. In com- 
position, where this is extended to persons, the dream-image 
contains features which are peculiar to one or other of the 
persons concerned but not common to them; so that the com- 
bination of these features leads to the appearance of a new 
unity, a composite figure. The actual process of composition can 
be carried out in various ways. On the one hand, the dream- 
figure may bear the name of one of the persons related to it — 
in which case we simply know directly, in a manner analogous 
to our waking knowledge, that this or that person is intended 
— while its visual features may belong to the other person. Or, 
on the other hand, the dream-image itself may be composed of 
visual features belonging in reality partly to the one person and 
partly to the other. Or again the second person’s share in the 

[Footnote added 1914:] Cf. Aristotle’s remark on the qualifications of 
a dream-interpreter quoted above on p. 97 n. 2. 



dream-image may lie, not in its visual features, but in the 
gestures that we attribute to it, the words that we make it 
speak, or the situation in which we place it. In this last case 
the distinction between identification and the construction of 
a composite figure begins to lose its sharpness.^ But it may also 
happen that the formation of a composite figure of this kind 
is unsuccessful. If so, the scene in the dream is attributed to one 
of the persons concerned, v/hile the other (and usually the more 
important one) appears as an attendant figure without any 
other function. The dreamer may describe the position in such 
a phrase as; ‘My mother was there as well.’ (Stekel.) An ele- 
ment of this kind in the dream-content may be compared to the 
‘determinatives’ used in hieroglyphic script, which are not 
meant to be pronounced but serve merely to elucidate other 

The common element which justifies, or rather causes, the 
combination of the two persons may be represented in the 
dream or may be omitted from it. As a rule the identification 
or construction of a composite person takes place for the very 
purpose of avoiding the representation of the common element. 
Instead of saying: ‘A has hostile feelings towards me and so 
has B’, I make a composite figm-e out of A and B in the dream, 
or I imagine A performing an act of some other kind which is 
characteristic of B. The dream-figure thus constructed appears 
in the dream in some quite new connection, and the circum- 
stance that it represents both A and B justifies me in inserting 
at the appropriate point in the dream the element which is 
common to both of them, namely a hostile attitude towards me. 
It is often possible in this way to achieve quite a remarkable 
amount of condensation in the content of a dream; I can save 
myself the need for giving a direct representation of very com- 
plicated circumstances relating to one person, if I can find 
another person to whom some of these circumstances apply 
equally. It is easy to see, too, how well this method of repre- 
sentation by means of identification can serve to evade the 
censorship due to resistance, which imposes such severe con- 
ditions upon the dream- work. What the censorship objects to 

1 [On the subject of composite figures cf. also p. 293 ff. The next 
three sentences were added in 1911. The final sentence of the paragraph 
was added in 1914. — ‘Identification’ in this passage is evidently being 
used in a sense different from that dbcussed on p. 149 ff.] 

I.D. — iv 




may lie precisely in certain ideas wliich, in the material of the 
dream-thoughts, are attached to a particular person; so I pro- 
ceed to find a second person, who is also connected with the 
objectionable material, but only with part of it. The contact 
between the two persons upon this censorable point now 
justifies me in constructing a composite figure characterized by 
indifferent features derived from both. This figure, arrived at 
by identification or composition, is then admissible to the 
dream-content without censorship, and thus, by making use of 
dream-condensation, I have satisfied the claims of the dream- 

When a common element between two persons is repre- 
sented in a dream, it is usually a hint for us to look for another, 
concealed common element whose representation has been 
made impossible by the censorship. A displacement in regard 
to the common element has been made in order, as it were, to 
facilitate its representation. The fact that the composite figure 
appears in the dream with an indifferent common element leads 
us to conclude that there is another far from indifferent common 
element present in the dream-thoughts. 

Accordingly, identification or the construction of composite 
figures serves various purposes in dreams: firstly to represent an 
element common to two persons, secondly to represent a dis- 
placed common element, and thirdly, too, to express a merely 
wishful common element. Since wishing that two persons had 
a common element frequently coincides with exchanging one 
for the other, this latter relation is also expressed in dreams by 
means of identification. In the dream of Irma’s injection, I 
wished to exchange her for another patient: I wished, that is, 
that the other woman might be my patient just as Irma was. 
The dream took this wish into account by showing me a 
person w^ho was called Irma, but who was examined in a 
position in which I had only had occasion to see the other 
woman [p. 109 f.]. In the dream about my uncle an exchange 
of this kind became the central point of the dream: I identified 
myself with the Minister by treating and judging my colleagues 
no better than he did. [P. 193.] 

It is my experience, and one to which I have found no 
exception, that every dream deals with the dreamer himself. 
Dreams are completely egoistical.’^ Whenever my own ego does 
[Footnote added 1925;] Cf. the footnote on pp. 270-1. 


not appear in the content of the dream, but only some extrane- 
ous person, I may safely assume that my own ego lies concealed, 
by identification, behind this other person; I can insert my ego 
into the context. On other occasions, when my own ego does 
appear in the dream, the situation in which it occurs may teach 
me that some other person lies concealed, by identification, 
behind my ego. In that case the dream should warn me to 
transfer on to myself, when I am interpreting the dream, the 
concealed common element attached to this other person. 
There are also dreams in which my ego appears along with 
other people who, when the identification is resolved, are re- 
vealed once again as my ego. These identifications should then 
make it possible for me to bring into contact with my ego 
certain ideas whose acceptance has been forbidden by the 
censorship. Thus my ego may be represented in a dream several 
times over, now directly and now through identification with 
extraneous persons. By means of a number of such identifica- 
tions it becomes possible to condense an extraordinary amount 
of thought-material.^ The fact that the dreamer’s own ego 
appears several times, or in several forms, in a dream is at 
bottom no more remarkable than that the ego should be con- 
tained in a conscious thought several times or in different places 
or connections — e.g. in Ae sentence ‘when / think what a 
healthy child I was’.* 

Identifications in the case of proper names of localities are 
resolved even more easily than in the case of persons, since here 
there is no interference by the ego, which occupies such a 
dominating place in dreams. In one of my dreams about Rome 
(see p. 195 f.), the place in which I found myself was called 
Rome, but I was astonished at the quantity of German posters 
at a street-corner. This latter point was a wish-fulfilment, which 
at once made me think of Prague; and the wish itself may 
perhaps have dated from a German-nationalist phase which I 
passed through during my youth, but have since got over.® At 
the time at which I had the dream there was a prospect of my 

‘ When I am in doubt behind which of the figures appearing in the 
dream my ego is to be looked for, I observe the following rule: the person 
who in the dream feels an emotion which I myself experience in my 
sleep is the one who conceals my ego. 

® [This sentence was added in 1925. The point is dealt with further in 
Freud, 1923e, Section X.] 

® [Cf. the ‘Revolutionary’ dream, pp. 210 and 213.] 



meeting my friend [Fliess] in Prague; so that the identification 
of Rome and Prague can be explained as a wishful common 
element; I would rather have met my friend in Rome than in 
Prague and would have liked to exchange Prague for Rome for 
the purpose of this meeting. 

The possibility of creating composite structures stands fore- 
most among the characteristics which so often lend dreams a 
fantastic appearance, for it introduces into the content of 
dreams elements which could never have been objects of actual 
perception.^ The psychical process of constructing composite 
images in dreams is evidently the same as when we imagine or 
portray a centaur or a dragon in waking life. The only differ- 
ence is that what determines the production of the imaginary 
figure in waking life is the impression which the new structure 
itself is intended to make; whereas the formation of the com- 
posite structure in a dream is determined by a factor extraneous 
to its actual shape — namely the common element in the dream- 
thoughts. Composite structures in dreams can be formed in a 
great variety of ways. The most naive of these procedures merely 
represents the attributes of one thing to the accompaniment of 
a knowledge that they also belong to something else. A more 
painstaking technique combines the features of both objects into 
a new image and in so doing makes clever use of any simi- 
larities that the two objects may happen to possess in reality. 
The new structure may seem entirely absurd or may strike us 
as an imaginative success, according to the material and to 
the ingenuity with which it is put together. If the objects which 
are to be condensed into a single unity are much too incon- 
gruous, the dream-work is often content with creating a com- 
posite structure with a comparatively distinct nucleus, accom- 
panied by a number of less distinct features. In that case the 
process of unification into a single image may be said to have 
failed. The two representations are superimposed and produce 
something in the nature of a contest between the two visual 
images. One might arrive at similar representations in a 
drawing, if one tried to illustrate the way in which a general 
concept is formed firom a number of individual perceptual 

Dreams are, of course, a mass of these composite structures. 

^ [Some amusing instances are given at the end of Section IV of 
Freud’s short essay on dreams (1901a); Standard Ed., 5, 651.] 



I have given some examples of them in dreams that I have 
already analysed; and I will now add a few more. In the dream 
reported below on p. 347 ff. [also above, p. 319], which de- 
scribes the course of the patient’s life ‘in the language of flowers’, 
the dream-ego held a blossoming branch in her hand which, as 
we have seen, stood both for innocence and for sexual sinfulness. 
The branch, owing to the way in which the blossoms were 
placed on it, also reminded the dreamer of cherry-h\os,som\ the 
blossoms themselves, regarded individually, were camellias, and 
moreover the general impression was of an exotic growth. The 
common factor among the elements of this composite structure 
was shown by the dream-thoughts. The ’olossoming branch was 
composed of allusions to gifts made to her in order to win, or 
attempt to win, her favour. Thus she had been given cherries in 
her childhood and, later in life, a camf^/ia-plant; while 'exotic' 
was an allusion to a much-travelled naturalist who had tried to 
win her favour with a flower-drawing. — Another of my women 
patients produced in one of her dreams a thing that was inter- 
mediate between a bathing-hut at the seaside, an outside closet 
in the country and an attic in a town house. The first two ele- 
ments have in common a connection with people naked and 
undressed; and their combination with the third element leads 
to the conclusion that (in her childhood) an attic had also been 
a scene of undressing. — Another dreamer,* a man, produced a 
composite locality out of two places where ‘treatments’ are 
carried out: one of them being my consulting-room and the 
other the place of entertainment where he had first made his 
wife’s acquaintance. — A girl dreamt, after her elder brother 
had promised to give her a feast of caviare, that this same 
brother’s legs were covered all over with black grains of caviare. The 
element of 'contagion' (in the moral sense) and a recollection of 
a rash in her childhood, which had covered her legs all over 
with red spots, instead of black ones, had been combined with 
the grains of caviare into a new concept — namely the concept of 
'what she had got from her brother'. In this dream, as in others, 
parts of the human body were treated like objects. — In a dream 
recorded by Ferenezi [1910],® a composite image occurred 
which was made up from the figure of a doctor and of a horse and 
was also dressed in a nightshirt. The element common to these 

* [This sentence was added in 1909.] ’ ' ' ; " ’ 

* [The remainder of this paragraph was added in 1911.] 



three components was arrived at in the analysis after the woman- 
patient had recognized that the night-shirt was an allusion to 
her father in a scene from her childhood. In all three cases it 
was a question of an object of her sexual curiosity. When she 
was a child she had often been taken by her nurse to a military 
stud-farm where she had ample opportunities of gratifying what 
was at that time her still uninhibited curiosity. 

I have asserted above [p. 318] that dreams have no means of 
expressing the relation of a contradiction, a contrary or a ‘no’. 
I shall now proceed to give a first denial of this assertion. ^ One 
class of cases which can be comprised under the heading of 
‘contraries’ are, as we have seen [p. 322], simply represented by 
identification — cases, that is, in which the idea of an exchange 
or substitution can be brought into connection with the con- 
trast. I have given a number of instances of this. Another class 
of contraries in the dream-thoughts, falling into a category 
which may be described as ‘contrariwise’ or ‘just the reverse’, 
find their way into dreams in the following remarkable fashion, 
which almost deserves to be described as a joke. The ‘just the 
reverse’ is not itself represented in the dream-content, but 
reveals its presence in the material through the fact that some 
piece of the dream-content, which has already been constructed 
and happens (for some other reason) to be adjacent to it, is — 
as it were by an afterthought — turned round the other way. 
The process is more easily illustrated than described. In the 
interesting ‘Up and Down’ dream (p. 285 ff.) the representa- 
tion of the climbing in the dream was the reverse of what it was 
in its prototype in the dream-thoughts — that is, in the intro- 
ductory scene from Daudet’s Sappho: in the dream the climbing 
was difficult at first but easier later, while in the Daudet scene 
it was easy at first but more and more difficult later. Further, 
the ‘up above’ and ‘down below’ in the dreamer’s relation to 
his brother were represented the other way round in the dream. 
This pointed to the presence of a reversed or contrary relation 
between two pieces of the material in the dream-thoughts; and 
we found it in the dreamer’s childhood phantasy of being car- 
ried by his wet-nurse, which was the reverse of the situation in 
the novel, where the hero was carrying his mistress. So too in my 
dream of Goethe’s attack on Herr M. (see below, p. 439 ff.) 

' [Others will be found below on pp. 337 and 434.] 


there is a similar ‘just the reverse’ which has to be put straight 
before the dream can be successfully interpreted. In the dream 
Goethe made an attack on a young man, Herr M.; in the real 
situation contained in the dream-thoughts a man of importance, 
my friend [Fliess], had been attacked by an unknown young 
writer. In the dream I based a calculation on the date of 
Goethe’s death; in reality the calculation had been made from 
the year of the paralytic patient’s birth. The thought which 
turned out to be the decisive one in the dream-thoughts was 
a contradiction of the idea that Goethe should be treated as 
though he were a lunatic. ‘Just the reverse’, said [the under- 
lying meaning of] the dream, ‘if you don’t understand the book, 
it’s you [the critic] that are feeble-minded, and not the author.’ 
I think, moreover, that all these dreams of turning things round 
the other way include a reference to the contemptuous implica- 
tions of the idea of ‘turning one’s back on something’.^ the 

dreamer’s turning round in relation to his brother in the Sappho 
dream [p. 287 £].) It is remarkable to observe, moreover,^ how 
frequently reversal is employed precisely in dreams arising from 
repressed homosexual impulses. 

Incidentally,® reversal, or turning a thing into its opposite, is 
one of the means of representation most favoured by the dream- 
work and one which is capable of employment in the most 
diverse directions. It serves in the first place to give expression 
to the fulfilment of a wish in reference to some particular ele- 
ment of the dream-thoughts. ‘If only it had been the other way 
round!’ This is often the best way of expressing the ego’s reaction 
to a disagreeable fragment of memory. Again, reversal is of 
quite special use as a help to the censorship, for it produces a 
mass of distortion in the material which is to be represented, 
and this has a positively paralysing effect, to begin with, on any 
attempt at understanding the dream. For that reason, if a dream 
obstinately declines to reveal its meaning, it is always w’orth 
while to see the effect of reversing some particular elements 
in its manifest content, after which the whole situation often 
becomes immediately clear. 

^ [The German ‘Kehrseiie’ can mean both ‘reverse’ I'nd ‘backside’. Cf. 
the vulgar English phrase ‘arse upwards’ for ‘upside down’, ‘the wrong 
way round’.] 

* [This sentence was added in 1911.] 

’ [This and the next paragraph were added in 1909.] 



And, apart from the reversal of subject-matter, chronological 
reversal must not be overlooked. Quite a common technique of 
dream-distortion consists in representing the outcome of an 
event or the conclusion of a train of thought at the beginning of 
a dream and of placing at its end the premises on which the 
conclusion was based or the causes which led to the event. 
Anyone who fails to bear in mind this technical method adopted 
by dream-distortion will be quite at a loss when confronted 
with the task of interpreting a dream.* 

In some instances, indeed,® it is only possible to arrive at the 
meaning of a dream after one has carried out quite a number of 
reversals of its content in various respects. For instance, in the 
case of a young obsessional neurotic, there lay concealed behind 
one of his dreams the memory of a death-wish dating from his 
childhood and directed against his father, of whom he had been 
afraid. Here is the text of the dream; His father was scolding him 
for coming home so late. The context in which the dream occurred 
in the psycho-analytic treatment and the dreamer’s associations 
showed, however, that the original wording must have been 
that he was angry with his father, and that in his view his father 
always came home too early (i.e. too soon). He would have pre- 
ferred it if his father had not come home at all, and this was 
the same thing as a death-wish against his father. (See p. 254 f.) 
For as a small boy, during his father’s temporary absence, he 

* {Footnote added 1909:] Hysterical attacks sometimes make use of the 
same kind of chronological reversal in order to disguise their meaning 
from observers. For instance, a hysterical girl needed to represent some- 
thing in the nature of a brief romance in one of her attacks — a romance 
of which she had had a phantasy in her unconscious after an encounter 
with someone on the suburban railway. She imagined how the man had 
been attracted by the beauty of her foot and had spoken to her while 
she was reading; whereupon she had gone off with him and had had a 
passionate love-scene. Her attack began with a representation of this 
love-scene by convulsive twitching of her body, accompanied by move- 
ments of her lips to represent kissing and tightening of her arms to 
represent embracing. She then hurried into the next room, sat down on 
a chair, raised her skirt so as to show her foot, pretended to be reading 
a book and spoke tome (that is, answered me ). — [Added 1914;] Cf. in this 
connection what Artemidorus says: ‘In interpreting the images seen in 
dreams one must sometimes follow them from the beginning to the end 
and sometimes from the end to the beginning. . .’ [Book I, Chapter XI, 
Krauss’s translation (1881), 20.] 

® [This paragraph w'as added in 1911.] ■ 



had been guilty of an act of sexual aggression against someone, 
and as a punishment had been threatened in these words: ‘Just 
you wait till your father comes back!’ 

If we wish to pursue our study of the relations between dream- 
content and dream-thoughts fiirther, the best plan will be to 
take dreams themselves as our point of departure and consider 
what certain formal characteristics of the method of representa- 
tion in dreams signify in relation to the thoughts underlying 
them. Most prominent among theseformal characteristics, which 
cannot fail to impress us in dreams, are the differences in sensory 
intensity between particular dream-images and in the distinct- 
ness of particular parts of dreams or of whole dreams as com- 
pared with one another. 

The differences in intensity between particular dream-images 
cover the whole range extending between a sharpness of defini- 
tion which we feel inclined, no doubt unjustifiably, to regard 
as greater than that of reality and an irritating vagueness which 
wf'declare characteristic of dreams because it is not completely 
comparable to any degree of indistinctness which w’e ever per- 
ceive in real objects. Furthermore we usually describe an 
impression which we have of an indistinct object in a dream as 
‘fleeting’, while W'e feel that those dream-images which are 
more distinct have been perceived for a considerable length of 
time. The question now arises w’hat it is in the material of the 
dream-thoughts that determines these differences in the vi\dd- 
ness of particular pieces of the content of a dream. 

We must begin by countering certain expectations which 
almost inevitably present themselves. Since the material of a 
dream may include real sensations experienced during sleep, it 
will probably be presumed that these, or the elements in the 
dream derived from them, are given prominence in the dream- 
content by appearing with special intensity; or, conversely, that 
whatever is very specially vivid in a dream can be traced back 
to real sensations during sleep. In my experience, however, this 
has never been confirmed. It is not the case that the elements of 
a dream which are derivatives of real impressions during sleep 
(i.e. of nervous stimuli) are distinguished by their \-ividness 
from other elements which arise from memories. The factor of 
reality coimts for nothing in determining the intensity dream- 



Again, it might be expected that the sensory intensity (that is, 
the vividness) of particular dream-images would be related to 
the psychical intensity of the elements in the dream-thoughts 
corresponding to them. In the latter, psychical intensity coin- 
cides with psychical value: the most intense elements are also the 
most important ones — those which form the centre-point of the 
dream-thoughts. We know, it is true, that these are precisely 
elements which, on account of the censorship, cannot as a rule 
make their way into the content of the dream; nevertheless, it 
might well be that their immediate derivatives which represent 
them in the dream might bear a higher degree of intensity, 
without necessarily on that account forming the centre of the 
dream. But this expectation too is disappointed by a compara- 
tive study of dreams and the material from which they are 
derived. The intensity of the elements in the one has no relation 
to the intensity of the elements in the other: the fact is that a 
complete ‘transvaluation of all psychical values’ [in Nietzsche’s 
phrase] takes place between the material of the dream-thoughts 
and the dream. A direct derivative of what occupies a dominat- 
ing position in the dream-thoughts can often only be discovered 
precisely in some transitory element of the dream which is quite 
overshadowed by more powerful images. 

The intensity of the elements of a dream turns out to be deter- 
mined otherwise — and by two independent factors. In the first 
place, it is easy to see that the elements by which the wish- 
fulfilment is expressed are represented with special intensity. 
[See p. 56 1 f.] And in the second place, analysis shows that the 
most vivid elements of a dream are the starting-point of the 
most numerous trains of thought — that the most vivid elements 
are also those with the most numerous determinants. We shall 
not be altering the sense of this empirically based assertion if 
we put it in these terms: the greatest intensity is shown by those 
elements of a dream on whose formation the greatest amount of 
condensation has been expended. [Cf. p. 595 f.] We may expect 
that it will eventually turn out to be possible to express this 
determinant and the other (namely relation to the wish-fulfil- 
ment) in a single formula. 

The problem with which I have just dealt — the causes of the 
greater or less intensity or clarity of particular elements of a 
dream — ^is not to be confounded with another problem, which 



relates to the varying clarity of whole dreams or sections of 
dreams. In the former case clarity is contrasted with vagueness, 
but in the latter case it is contrasted with confusion. Neverthe- 
less it cannot be doubted that the increase and decrease of the 
qualities in the two scales run parallel. A section of a dream 
which strikes us as perspicuous usually contains intense ele- 
ments; a dream which is obscure, on the other hand, is com- 
posed of elements of small intensity. Yet the problem presented 
by the scale which runs from what is apparendy clear to what 
is obscure and confused is far more complicated than that of 
the varying degrees of vividness of dream-elements. Indeed, for 
reasons which wall appear later, the former problem cannot yet 
be discussed. [See p. 500 f.] 

In a few cases we find to our surprise that the impression of 
clarity or indistinctness given by a dream has no connection 
at all with the make-up of the dream itself but arises Irom the 
material of the dream-thoughts and is a constituent of it. Thus 
I remember a dream of mine which struck me when I woke up 
as being so particularly well-constructed, flawless and clear 
that, while I was still half-dazed with sleep, I thought of intro- 
ducing a new category of dreams which were not subject to the 
mechanisms of condensation and displacement but were to be 
described as ‘phantasies during sleep’. Closer examination 
proved that this rarity among dreams showed the same gaps 
and flaws in its structure as any other; and for that reason I 
dropped the category of ‘dream-phantasies’.^ The content of 
the dream, when it was arrived at, represented me as laying 
before my friend [Fliess] a difficult and long-sought theory of 
bisexuality; and the wish-fulfilling power of the dream was 
responsible for our regarding this theory {which, incidentally, 
was not given in the dream) as clear and flawless. Thus what I 
had taken to be a judgement on the completed dream was 
actually a part, and indeed the essential part, of the dream- 
content. The dream-work had in this case encroached, as it 
were, upon my first waking thoughts and had conveyed to me as 
^judgementwpoTL the dream the part of the material of the dream- 
thoughts which it had not succeeded in representing accurately 

1 [Footnote added 1930:] Whether rightly I am now uncertain. [Freud 
argues in favour of there being such a categfxy in some renrarks at the 
end of the discusnon of his first example in fail paper on TD reams and 
Telepathy’ (1922ffl).] 



in the dream.* I once came across a precise counterpart to this 
in a woman-patient’s dream during analysis. To begin with she 
refused altogether to tell it me, ‘because it was so indistinct and 
muddled’. At length, protesting repeatedly that she felt no cer- 
tainty that her account was correct, she informed me that several 
people had come into the dream — she herself, her husband and 
her father — and that it was as though she had not known 
whether her husband was her father, or who her father was, or 
something of that sort. This dream, taken in conjunction with 
her associations during the analytic session, showed beyond a 
doubt that it was a question of the somewhat commonplace 
story of a servant-girl who was obliged to confess that she was 
expecting a baby but was in doubts as to ‘who the (baby’s) 
father really was’.® Thus here again the lack of clarity shown 
by the dream was a part of the material which instigated the 
dream: part of this material, that is, was represented in the 
form of the dream. The form of a dream or the form in which it is 
dreamt is used with quite surprising frequency for representing its con- 
cealed subject-matter,^ 

Glosses on a dream, or apparently innocent comments on it, 
often serve to disguise a portion of what has been dreamt in the 
subtlest fashion, though in fact betraying it. For instance, a 
dreamer remarked that at one point ‘the dream had been 
wiped away’; and the analysis led to an infantile recollection of 
his listening to someone wiping himself after defaecating. Or 
here is another example which deserves to be recorded in detail. 
A young man had a very clear dream which ;eminded him of 
some phantasies of his boyhood that had remained conscious. 
He dreamt that it was evening and that he was in a hotel at a 
summer resort. He mistook the number of his room and went 
into one in which an elderly lady and her two daughters were 
undresssing and going to bed. He proceeded: ‘Here there are 
some gaps in the dream; there’s something missing. Finally 
there was a man in the room who tried to throw me out, and I 
had to have a struggle with him.’ He made vain endeavours to 

^ [This subject is discussed much more fully below, on p. 445 ff.] 

“ Her accompanying hysterical symptoms were amenorrhoea and 
great depression (which was this patient’s chief symptom). [This dream 
is discussed on p. 445 f.] 

* [The last sentence was added in 1909, and from 1914 onwards was 
printed in spaced type. The next paragraph was added in 1911.] 


recall the gist and drift of the boyish phantasy to which the 
dream was evidently alluding; until at last the truth emerged 
that what he was in search of was already in his possession in 
his remark about the obscure part of the dream. The ‘gaps’ 
were the genital apertures of the women who were going to 
bed; and ‘there’s something missing* described the principal 
feature of the female genitalia. When he was young he had had 
a consuming curiosity to see a woman’s genitals and had been 
inclined to hold to the infantile sexual theory according to 
which women have male organs. 

An analogous recollection of another dreamer assumed a very 
similar shape. ^ He dreamt as follows; ‘7 was going into the Volks- 
garten Restaurant with Fraulein K. . . then came an obscure 
patch, an interruption . . ., then I found myself in the salon of a 
brothel, where I saw two or three women, one of them in her chemise and 

Analysis. — Fraulein K. was the daughter of his former chief, 
and, as he himself admitted, a substitute sister of his own. He 
had seldom had an opportunity of talking to her, but they once 
had a conversation in which ‘it was just as though we had 
become aware of our sex, it was as though I were to say: “I’m 
a man and you’re a woman.” ’ He had only once been inside 
the restaurant in question, with his brother-in-laVs sister, a 
girl who meant nothing at all to him. Another time he had gone 
with a group of three ladies as far as the entrance of the same 
restaurant. These ladies were his sister, his sister-in-law and the 
brother-in-law’s sister who has just been mentioned. All of 
them were highly indifferent to him, but all three fell into the 
class of ‘sister’. He had only seldom Nisited a brothel — only two 
or three times in his life. 

The interpretation was based on the ‘obscure patch’ and the 
‘interruption’ in the dream, and put forward the view that in 
his boyish curiosity he had occasionally, though only seldom, 
inspected the genitals of a sister who was a few years ^junior. 
Some days later he had a conscious recollection of the misdeed 
alluded to by the dream. 

The content of all dreams that occur during the same night 
forms part of the same whole; the fact of their being divided into 

several sections, as well as the groninng and number of those 
* [Th« and the two following paragrajdif were added in 1914.3 



sections — all of this has a meaning and may be regarded as a 
piece of information arising from the latent dream-thoughts. ^ 
In interpreting dreams consisting of several main sections or, in 
general, dreams occurring during the same night, the possi- 
bility should not be overlooked that separate and successive 
dreams of this kind may have the same meaning, and may be 
giving expression to the same impulses in different material. If 
so, the first of these homologous dreams to occur is often the 
more distorted and timid, while the succeeding one will be more 
confident and distinct. 

Pharaoh’s dreams in the Bible of the kine and the ears of com, 
which were interpreted by Joseph, were of this kind. They are 
reported more fully by Josephus [Ancient History of the Jews, 
Book 2, Chapter 5) than in the Bible. After the King had related 
his first dream, he said; ‘After I had seen this vision, I awaked 
out of my sleep; and, being in disorder, and considering with 
myself what this appearance should be, I fell asleep again, and 
saw another dream, more wonderful than the foregoi ng, which 
did more affright and disturb me . . .’ After hearing the King’s 
account of the dream, Joseph replied: ‘This dream, O King, 
although seen under two forms, signifies one and the same 
event . . .’ [Whiston’s translation, 1874, 1, 127-8.] 

In his ‘Contribution to the Psychology of Rumour’, Jung 
(1910J), describes how the disguised erotic dream of a school- 
girl was understood by her school-friends without any inter- 
preting and how it was further elaborated and modified. He 
remarks in connection with one of these dream stories: ‘The 
final thought in a long series of dream-images contains precisely 
what the first image in the series had attempted to portray. The 
censorship keeps the complex at a distance as long as possible 
by a succession of fresh symbolic screens, displacements, inno- 
cent disguises, etc.’ (Ibid., 87.) Schemer (1861, 166) was well 
acquainted with this peculiarity of the method of representation 
in dreams and describes it, in connection with his theory of 
organic stimuli [see p. 85 f.], as a special law: ‘Lastly, how- 
ever, in all symbolic dream-stractures which arise from par- 

^ [This sentence was added in 1909. The remainder of this paragraph, 
and the three following ones, were added in 1911. Freud deals with the 
subject again towards the end of Lecture XXIX of his Jfew IntroducUny 
Lectures (1933a). It has already been touched upon on p. 314 ff., and is 
mentioned again on p. 403, p. 444 n. and p. 525.] 


ticular nervous stimuli, the imagination observes a general law: 
at the beginning of a dream it depicts the object from which the 
stimulus arises only by the remotest and most inexact allusions, 
but at the end, when the pictorial effusion has exhausted itself, 
it nakedly presents the stimulus itself, or, as the case may be, the 
organ concerned or the function of that organ, and therewith 
the dream, having designated its actual organic cause, achieves 
its end. ...” 

Otto Rank (1910) has produced a neat confirmation of this 
law of Schemer’s. A girl’s dream reported by him was com- 
posed of two separate dreams dreamt, with an interval between 
them, during the same night, the second of which ended with 
an orgasm. It was possible to carry out a detailed interpretation 
of this second dream even without many contributions from the 
dreamer; and the number of connections between the contents 
of the two dreams made it possible to see that the first dream 
represented in a more timid fashion the same thing as the second. 
So that the second, the dream with the orgasm, helped towards 
the complete explanation of the first. Rank rightly bases upon 
this example a discussion of the general significance of dreams 
of orgasm or emission for the theor\' of dreaming. [See p, 
402 ff.] 

Nevertheless in my experience it is only rarely that one is in 
a position to interpret the clarity or confusion of a dream by 
the presence of certainty or doubt in its naaterial. Later on I 
shall ha\’e to disclose a factor in dream-fonnation which I have 
not yet mentioned and which exercises the determining influence 
upon the scale of these qualities in any particular dream. [See 
p. 500 f.] 

Sometimes, in a dream in which the same situation and set- 
ting have persisted for some time, an interruption will occur 
which is described in these words: ‘But then it was as though at 
the same time it was another place, and there such and such a 
thing happened.’ After a while the main thread of the dream 
may be resumed, and what interrupted it turns out to be a 
subordinate clause in the dream-material — ^an interpolated 
thought. A conditional in the dream-thou^ts has been repre- 
sented in the dream by simultaneity; ‘if’ has become ‘vrhm’. 

What is the m eaning of the sensatioo of inhflnted ni!Ovc.^ent 



which appears so commonly in dreams and verges so closely 
upon anxiety? One tries to move forward but finds oneself glued 
to the spot, or one tries to reach something but is held up by a 
series of obstacles. A train is on the point of departure but one is 
unable to catch it. One raises one’s hand to avenge an insult but 
finds it powerless. And so forth. We have already met with this 
sensation in dreams of exhibiting [p. 242 ff.; cf. also p. 285], but 
have not as yet made any serious attempt to interpret it. An easy 
but insufficient answer would be to say that motor paralysis 
prevails in sleep and that we become aware of it in the sensation 
we are discussing. But it may be asked why in that case we are 
not perpetually dreaming of these inhibited movements; and it 
is reasonable to suppose that this sensation, though one which 
can be summoned up at any moment during sleep, serves to 
facilitate some particular kind of representation, and is only 
aroused when the material of the dream-thoughts needs to be 
represented in that way. 

This ‘not being able to do anything’ does not always appear 
in dreams as a sensation but is sometimes simply a part of the 
content of the dream. A case of this sort seems to me particularly 
well qualified to throw light on the meaning of this feature of 
dreaming. Here is an abridged version of a dream in which I 
was apparently charged with dishonesty. The place was a mixture 
of a private sanatorium and several other institutions. A manservant 
appeared to summon me to an examination. I knew in the dream that 
something had been missed and that the examination was due to a sus- 
picion that I had appropriated the missing article. (The analysis 
showed that the examination was to be taken in two senses and 
included a medical examination.) Conscious of my innocence and of 
the fact that I held the position of a consultant in the establishment, I 
accompanied the servant quietly. At the door we were met by another 
servant, who said, pointing to me: 'Why have you brought him? He’s a 
respectable person? I then went, unattended, into a large hall, with 
machines standing in it, which reminded me of an Inferno with its hellish 
instruments of punishment. Stretched out on one apparatus I saw one of 
my colleagues, who had every reason to take some notice of me; but he 
paid no attention. I was then told I could go. But I could not find try hat 
and could not go after all. 

The wish-fulfilment of the dream evidently lay in my being 
recognized as an honest man and told I could go. There must 
therefore have been all kinds of material in the dream-thoughts 



containing a contradiction of this. That I could go was a sign 
of my absolution. If therefore something happened at the end 
of the dream wliich prevented my going, it seems plausible to 
suppose that the suppressed material containing the contradic- 
tion was making itself felt at that point. My not being able to 
find my hat meant accordingly: ‘After all you’re not an honest 
man.’ Thus the ‘not being able to do something’ in this dream 
was a way of expressing a contradiction — a ‘no’ — ; so that my 
earlier statement [p. 318] that dreams cannot express a ‘no’ 
requires correction.^ 

In other dreams, in which die ‘not carrying out’ of a move- 
ment occurs as a sensation and not simply as a situation, the sensa- 
tion of the inhibition of a movement gives a more forcible ex- 
pression to the same contradiction — ^it expresses a volition which 
is opposed by a counter-volition. Thus the sensation of the inhibi- 
tion of a movement represents a conflict of will. [Cf. p. 246.] We 
shall learn later [p. 567 f.] that the motor paralysis accompanying 
sleep is precisely one of the fundamental determinants of the 
psychical process during dreaming. Now an impulse transmitted 
along the motor paths is nothing other than a volition, and the 
tact of our being so certain that we shall feel that impulse 
inhibited during sleep is what makes the whole process so admir- 
ably suited for representing an act of volition and a ‘no’ which 
opposes it. It is also easy to see, on my explanation of anxiety, 
why the sensation of an inhibition of will approximates so closely 
to anxiety and is so often linked with it in dreams. An.xiety is a 

' In the complete analysis there was a reference to an event in my 
childhood, reached by the following chain of association. ‘Der Mohr hat 
seine Schuldigkeit gctan, der Mohr kann gehen.’ [‘The Moor has done his 
duty, the Moor can go.’ (Schiller, Fiesco, III, 4.) ’Schuldigkeit’ (‘duty’) is 
actually a misquotation for ’Arbeit’ (‘work’).] Then came a facetious 
conundrum: ‘How old was the Moor when he had done his duty?’ — 
‘One year old, because then he could go [’gehen ’ — both ‘to go’ and ‘to 
walk’].’ (It apfjears that I came into the world with such a tangle of 
black hair that my young mother declared I was a little Moor.) — My 
not being able to find my hat was an occurrence from waking life which 
was used in more than one sense. Our housemaid, who was a genius at 
putting things away, had hidden it. — The end of this dream also con- 
cealed a rejection of some melancholy thoughts about death: ‘I am far 
from having done my duty, so I must not go yet.’ — ^Birth and death were 
dealt with in it, just as they had been in the dream of Goethe and the 
paralytic patient, which I had dreamt a short time before. (See pp. 327, 
439 ff. [and 44S ff.],) 

I.D. — tv 




libidinal impulse which has its origin in the unconscious and is 
inhibited by the preconscious.^ When, therefore, the sensation 
of inhibition is linked with anxiety in a dream, it must be a 
question of an act of volition which was at one time capable of 
generating libido — that is, it must be a question of a sexual 

I shall deal elsewhere (see below [p. 488 f.]) with the mean- 
ing and psychical significance of the judgement which often 
turns up in dreams expressed in the phrase ‘after all this is only 
a dream’.® Here I will merely say in anticipation that it is 
intended to detract from the importance of what is being dreamt. 
The interesting and allied problem, as to what is meant when 
some of the content of a dream is described in the dream itself 
as ‘dreamt’ — the enigma of the ‘dream within a dream’ — has 
been solved in a similar sense by Stekel [1909, 459 flf.], who has 
analysed some convincing examples. The intention is, once 
again, to detract from the importance of what is ‘dreamt’ in the 
dream, to rob it of its reality. What is dreamt in a dream after 
waking from the ‘dream within a dream’ is what the dream- 
wish seeks to put in the place of an obliterated reality. It is safe 
to suppose, therefore, that what has been ‘dreamt’ in the dream 
is a representation of the reality, the true recollection, while the 
continuation of the dream, on the contrary, merely represents 
what the dreamer wishes. To include something in a ‘dream 
within a dream’ is thus equivalent to wishing that the thing 
described as a dream had never happened. In other words,® if 
a particular event is inserted into a dream as a dream by the 
dream-work itself, this implies the most decided confirmation of 
the reality of the event — the strongest affirmation of it. The 
dream-work makes use of dreaming as a form of repudiation, 
and so confirms the discovery that dreams are wish-fulfilments.* 

^ [Footnote added 1930:] In the light of later knowledge this statement 
can no longer stand. [Cf. p. 161, n. 2. See also p. 499 n.] 

® [This paragraph (except for its penultimate sentence and part of its 
last sentence) was added in 1911.] 

® [This sentence was added in 1919.] 

* [The last clause was added in 1919.] 



We have been occupied so far with investigating the means by 
which dreams represent the relations between the dream- 
thoughts. In the course of this investigation, however, we have 
more than once touched upon the further topic of the general 
nature of the modifications which the material of the dream- 
thoughts undergoes for the purpose of the formation of a dream. 
We have learnt that that material, stripped to a large extent of 
its relations, is submitted to a process of compression, while at 
the same time displacements of intensity between its elements 
necessarily bring about a psychical transvaluation of the 
material. The displacements we have hitherto considered turned 
out to consist in the replacing of some one particular idea by 
another in some way closely associated with it, and they were 
used to facilitate condensation in so far as, by their means, 
instead of two elements, a single common element intermediate 
between them found its way into the dream. We have not yet 
referred to any other sort of displacement. Analyses show us, 
however, that another sort exists and that it reveals itself in a 
change in the verbal expression of the thoughts concerned. In both 
cases there is a displacement along a chain of associations; but 
a process of such a kind can occur in various psychical spheres, 
and the outcome of the displacement may in one case be that 
one element is replaced by another, while the outcome in 
another case may be that a single element has its verbal form 
replaced by another. 

This second species of displacement which occurs in dream- 
formation is not only of great theoretical interest but is also 
specially well calculated to explain the appearance of fantastic 
absurdity in which dreams are disguised. The direction taken 
by the displacement usually results in a colourless and abstract 
expression in the dream-thought being exchanged for a pictorial 
and concrete one. The advantage, and accordingly the purpose, 
of such a change jumps to the eyes. A thing that is pictorial is, 

r.D . — V 339 



from the point of view of a dream, a thing that is capable of being 
represented', it can be introduced into a situation in which 
abstract expressions offer the same kind of difficulties to repre- 
sentation in dreams as a political leading article in a newspaper 
would offer to an illustrator. But not only representability, but 
the interests of condensation and the censorship as well, can be 
the gainers from this exchange. A dream-thought is unusable so 
long as it is expressed in an abstract form; but when once it 
has been transformed into pictorial language, contrasts and 
identifications of the kind which the dream-work requires, and 
which it creates if they are not already present, can be estab- 
lished more easily than before between the new form of expres- 
sion and the remainder of the material underlying the dream. 
This is so because in every language concrete terms, in con- 
sequence of the history of their development, are richer in 
associations than conceptual ones. We may suppose that a good 
part of the intermediate work done during the formation of a 
dream, which seeks to reduce the dispersed dream-thoughts to 
the most succinct and unified expression possible, proceeds along 
the line of finding appropriate verbal transformations for the 
individual thoughts. Any one thought, whose form of expression 
may happen to be fixed for other reasons, will operate in a 
determinant and selective manner on the possible forms of 
expression allotted to the other thoughts, and it may do so, 
perhaps, from the very start — as is the case in writing a poem. 
If a poem is to be written in rhymes, the second line of a 
couplet is limited by two conditions: it must express an appro- 
priate meaning, and the expression of that meaning must rhyme 
with the first line. No doubt the best poem will be one in which 
we fail to notice the intention of finding a rhyme, and in which 
the two thoughts have, by mutual influence, chosen from the 
very start a verbal expression which will allow a rhyme to 
emerge with only slight subsequent adjustment. 

In a few instances a change of expression of this kind assists 
dream-condensation even more direcdy, by finding a form of 
words which owing to its ambiguity is able to give expression to 
more than one of the dream-thoughts. In this way the whole 
domain of verbal wit is put at the disposal of the dream-work. 
There is no need to be astonished at the part played by words 
in dream-formation. Words, since they are the nodal points of 
numerous ideas, may be regarded as predestined to ambiguity; 


and the neuroses (e.g. in framing obsessions and phobias), no 
less than dreams, make unashamed use of the advantages thus 
offered by words for purposes of condensation and disguise,^ It 
is easy to show that dream-distortion too profits from displace- 
ment of expression. If one ambiguous word is used instead of 
two unambiguous ones the result is misleading; and if our 
everyday, sober method of expression is replaced by a pictorial 
one, our understanding is brought to a halt, particularly since 
a dream never tells us whether its elements are to be interpreted 
literally or in a figurative sense or whether they are to be con- 
nected with the material of the dream-thoughts directly or 
through the intermediary of some interpolated phraseology.® In 
interpreting any dream-element it is in general doubtful 

(а) whether it is to be taken in a positive or negative sense 
(as an antithetic relation), 

(б) whether it is to be interpreted historically (as a recol- 

(c) whether it is to be interpreted symbolically, or 

(d) whether its interpretation is to depend on its wording. 
Yet, in spite of all this ambiguity, it is fair to say that the 
productions of the dream-work, which, it must be remembered, 
are not made with the intention of being understood, present no greater 
difficulties to their translators than do the ancient hieroglyphic 
scripts to those who seek to read them. 

I have already given several examples of representations in 
dreams which are only held together by the ambiguity of their 
wording. (For instance, ‘She opened her mouth properly’ in the 
dream of Irma’s injection [p. Ill] and ‘I could not go after all’ 
in the dream which I last quoted [p. 336 f.].) I will now record a 
dream in which a considerable part was played by the turning 
of abstract thought into pictures. The distinction between 
dream-interpretation of this kind and interpretation by means 
of symbolism can still be drawn quite sharply. In the case of 
symbolic dream-interpretation the key to the symbolization is 

® [Footnote added 1909:] See my volume on jokes (1905c) [especially 
the later part of Chapter VI] and the use of ‘verbal bridges’ in the solu- 
tion of neurotic symptoms. [See, e.g., the synthesis of Dora’s first dream 
at the end of Section II of Freud, 1905c (where the term ‘switch-words’ 
is also used), and the solution of the ‘Rat Man’s’ rat-obsession in Section 
1(G) of Freud 1909</.] 

* [The remainder of this paragraph was added as a footnote in 1909 
and included in the text in 1914.] 



arbitrarily chosen by the interpreter; whereas in our cases of 
verbal disguise the keys are generally known and laid down by 
firmly established linguistic usage. If one has the right idea at 
one’s disposal at the right moment, one can solve dreams of 
this kind wholly or in part even independently of information 
from the dreamer. 

A lady of my acquaintance had the following dream: She was 
at the Opera. A Wagner opera was being performed, and had lasted till 
a quarter to eight in the morning. There were tables set out in the stalls, 
at which people were eating and drinking. Her cousin, who had just got 
back from his honeymoon, was sitting at one of the tables with his young 
wife, and an aristocrat was sitting beside them. Her cousin's wife, so it 
appeared, had brought him back with her from the honeymoon, quite 
openly, just as one might bring back a hat. In the middle of the stalls 
there was a high tower, which had a platform on top of it surrounded by 
an iron railing. High up at the top was the conductor, who had the 
features of Hans Richter. He kept running round the railing, and was 
perspiring violently; and from that position he was conducting the 
orchestra, which was grouped about the base of the tower. She herself 
was sitting in a box with a woman friend (whom I knew). Her 
younger sister wanted to hand her up a large lump of coal from the stalls, 
on the ground that she had not known it would be so long, and must be 
simply freezing by now. (.dr though the boxes required to be heated during 
the long performance.) 

Even though the dream was well focused on a single situation, 
yet in other respects it was sufficiently senseless: the tower in the 
middle of the stalls, for instance, with the conductor directing 
the orchestra from the top of it! And above all the coal that her 
sister handed up to her! I deliberately refrained from asking for 
an analysis of the dream. But since I had some knowledge of the 
dreamer’s personal relations, I was able to interpret certain 
pieces of it independently of her. I knew she had had a great 
deal of sympathy for a musician whose career had been pre- 
maturely cut short by insanity. So I decided to take the tower 
in the stalls metaphorically. It then emerged that the man 
whom she had wanted to see in Hans Richter’s place towered 
high above the other members of the orchestra. The tower might 
be described as a composite picture formed by apposition. The 
lower part of its structure represented the man’s greatness; 
the railing at the top, behind which he was running round 


like a prisoner or an animal in a cage — this was an allusion to 
the unhappy man’s name^ — represented his ultimate fate. The 
two ideas might have been brought together in the word 

Having thus discovered the mode of representation adopted 
by the dream, we might attempt to use the same key for solving 
its second apparent absurdity — the coal handed up to the 
dreamer by her sister. ‘Coal’ must mean ‘secret love’: 

Kein Feuer, keine Kokle 
kann brennen so heiss 
als wie heimliche Liebe, 
von der niemand nichts weiss.® 

She herself and her woman friend had been left unmarried 
[German ‘sitzen geblieben\ literally ‘left sitting’]. Her younger 
sister, who still had prospects of marriage, handed her up the 
coal ‘because she had not known it would be so long'. The dream 
did not specify what would be so long. If it were a story, we 
should say ‘the performance’; but since it is a dream, we may 
take the phrase as an independent entity, decide that it was 
used ambiguously and add the words ‘before she got married.’ 
Our interpretation of ‘secret love’ is further supported by the 
mention of the dreamer’s cousin sitting with his wife in the 
stalls, and by the open love-affair attributed to the latter. The 
dream was dominated by the antithesis between secret and open 
love and between the dreamer’s own fire and the coldness of 
the young wife, "in both cases, moreover, there was someone 
‘highly-placed’ — a term applying equally to the aristocrat and 
to the musician on whom such high hopes had been pinned.® 

The foregoing discussion has led us at last to the discovery of 
a third factor® whose share in the transformation of the dream- 

^ [Footnote added 1925:] Hugo Wolf. 

* [Literally ‘Fools’ Tower’ — an old term for an insane asylum.] 

® [No fire, no coal 
So hotly glows 
As secret love 

Of which no one knows. 

German Volkslied.} 

* [The element of absurdity in this dream is commented upon on 
p. 435.] 

® [The two previous ones being condensation and displacement.]' 



thoughts into the dream-content is not to be underrated: 
namely, considerations of representahility in the peculiar psychical 
material of which dreams make use — for the most part, that is, 
representahility in visual images. Of the various subsidiary 
thoughts attached to the essential dream-thoughts, those will be 
preferred which admit of visual representation; and the dream- 
work does not shrink from the effort of recasting unadaptable 
thoughts into a new verbal form — even into a less usual one — 
provided that that process facilitates representation and so re- 
lieves the psychological pressure caused by constricted think- 
ing. This pouring of the content of a thought into another mould 
may at the same time serve the purposes of the activity of 
condensation and may create connections, which might not 
otherwise have been present, with some other thought; while 
this second thought itself may already have had its original 
form of expression changed, with a view to meeting the first 
one half-way. 

Herbert Silberer (1909)^ has pointed out a good way of 
directly observing the transformation of thoughts into pictures 
in the process of forming dreams and so of studying this one 
factor of the dream-work in isolation. If, when he was in a 
fatigued and sleepy condition, he set himself some intellectual 
task, he found that it often happened that the thought escaped 
him and that in its place a picture appeared, which he was 
then able to recognize as a substitute for the thought. Silberer 
describes these substitutes by the not very appropriate term 
of ‘auto-symbolic’. I will here quote a few examples from 
Silberer’s paper [ibid., 519-22], and I shall have occasion, on 
account of certain characteristics of the phenomena concerned, 
to return to them later. [See p. 503 ff.] 

‘Example 1 . — I thought of ha\dng to revise an uneven passage 
in an essay. 

‘Symbol. — I saw myself planing a piece of wood.’ 

‘Example 5. — I endeavoured to bring home to myself the aim 
of certain metaphysical studies which I was proposing to make. 
Their aim, I reflected, w'as to work one’s way through to ever 
higher forms of consciousness and layers of existence, in one’s 
search for the bases of existence. 

^ [This paragraph and the subsequent quotation from Silberer were 
added in 1914.] 


‘Symbol . — I was pushing a long knife under a cake, as though 
to lift out a slice. 

‘Interpretation , — My motion with the knife meant the “work- 
ing my way through” which was in question. . . . Here is the 
explanation of the symbolism. It is from time to time my 
business at meals to cut up a cake and distribute the helpings. 
I perform the task with a long, flexible knife — which demands 
some care. In particular, to lift out the slices cleanly after 
they have been cut offers certain difficulties; the knife must 
be pushed carefully under the slice (corresponding to the slow 
“working my way through” to reach the “bases”). But there is 
yet more symbolism in the picture. For the cake in the symbol 
was a “Dobos” cake — a cake with a number of “layers” through 
which, in cutting it, the knife has to penetrate (the “layers” of 
consciousness and thought).’ 

‘Example 9. — I had lost the thread in a train of thought. I 
tried to find it again, but had to admit that the starting-point 
had completely escaped me. 

‘Symbol . — Part of a compositor’s forme, with the last lines of 
type fallen away.’ 

In view of the part played by jokes, quotations, songs and 
proverbs in the mental life of educated people, it would fully 
agree with our expectations if disguises of such kinds were used 
with extreme frequency for representing dream-thoughts. What, 
for instance, is the meaning in a dream of a number of carts, 
each filled with a different sort of vegetable? They stand for a 
wishful contrast to ‘Kraut und Ruben' [literally, ‘cabbages and 
turnips’], that is to say to ‘higgledy-piggledy’, and accordingly 
signify ‘disorder’. I am surprised that this dream has only been 
reported to me once.^ A dream-symbolism of universal validity 
has only emerged in the case of a few subjects, on the basis of 
generally familiar allusions and verbal substitutes. Moreover a 
good part of this symbolism is shared by dreams with psycho- 
neuroses, legends and popular customs.® 

Indeed, when we look into the matter more closely, we must 
recognize the fact that the dream-work is doing nothing 

^ {Footnote added 1925;] I have in fact never met with this image again; 
so I have lost confidence in the correctness of the interpretation. 

® [The subject of dream-symbolism is treated at length in the next 



original in making substitutions of this kind. In order to gain 
its ends — ^in this case the possibility of a representation un- 
hampered by censorship — ^it merely follows the paths wliich it 
finds already laid down in the unconscious; and it gives prefer- 
ence to those transformations of the repressed material which 
can also become conscious in the form of jokes or allusions and 
of which the phantasies of neurotic patients are so full. At this 
point we suddenly reach an understanding of Schemer’s dream- 
interpretations, whose essential correctness I have defended else- 
where [pp. 83 ff. and 227]. The imagination’s pre-occupation 
with the subject’s own body is by no means peculiar to dreams 
or characteristic only of them. My analyses have shown me 
that it is habitually present in the unconscious thoughts of 
neurotics, and that it is derived from sexual curiosity, which, 
in growing youths or girls, is directed to the genitals of the other 
sex, and to those of their oum as well. Nor, as Schemer 
[1861] and Volkclt [1875] have rightly insisted, is a house the 
only circle of ideas employed for symbolizing the body; and 
this is equally true of dreams and of the unconscious phantasies 
of neurosis. It is true that I know patients who have retained an 
architectural symbolism for the body and the genitals. (Sexual 
interest ranges far beyond the sphere of the external genitalia.) 
For these patients pillars and columns represent the legs (as 
they do in the Song of Solomon), every gateway stands for one of 
the bodily orifices (a ‘hole’), every water-pipe is a reminder of 
the urinary apparatus, and so on. But the circle of ideas 
centring round plant-life or the kitchen may just as readily be 
chosen to conceal sexual images.* In the former case the way 
has been well prepared by linguistic usage, itself the precipitate 
of imaginative similes reaching back to remote antiquity: e.g. 
the Lord’s vineyard, the seed, and the maiden’s garden in the 
Song of Solomon. The ugliest as well as the most intimate details 
of sexual life may be thought and dreamt of in seemingly 
innocent allusions to activities in the kitchen; and the symptoms 
of hysteria could never be interpreted if we forgot that sexual 
symbolism can find its best hiding-place behind what is common- 
place and inconspicuous. There is a valid sexual meaning 
behind the neurotic child’s intolerance of blood or raw meat, 
or his nausea at the sight of eggs or macaroni, and behind the 

* [Footnote added 1914:] Abundant evidence of this is to be found in 
the three supplementary volumes to Fuchs (1909-12). 


enormous exaggeration in neurotics of the natural human dread 
of snakes. Wherever neuroses make use of such disguises they 
are following paths along which all humanity passed in the 
earliest periods of civilization — ^paths of whose continued exist- 
ence to-day, under the thinnest of veils, evidence is to be found 
in linguistic usages, superstitions and customs. 

I will now append the ‘flowery’ dream dreamt by one of my 
women patients which I have already [p. 315] promised to 
record. I have indicated in small capitals those elements in it 
that are to be given a sexual interpretation. The dreamer quite 
lost her liking for this pretty dream after it had been interpreted. 

(a) Introductory Dream: SAe went into the kitchen, where her 
two maidservants were, and found fault with them for not having got 
her ‘bite of food' ready. At the same time she saw quite a quantity of 
crockery standing upside down to drain, common crockery piled up in 
heaps. Later addition: The two maidservants went to fetch some water 
and had to step into a kind of river which came right up to the house 
into theyard.^ 

{b) Main Dream®: She was descending from a height^ over some 
strangely constructed palisades or fences, which were put together into 
large panels, and consisted of small squares of wattling.* It was not 
intended for climbing over; she had trouble in finding a place to put her 
feet in and felt glad that her dress had not been caught anywhere, so that 
she had stayed respectable as she went along.^ She was holding a big 
branch in her hand^; actually it was like a tree, covered over with red 
BLOSSOMS, branching and spreading out.’’ There was an idea of their 
being cAeriPj-BLOSSOMS; but they also looked like double camellias, 
though of course those do not grow on trees. As she went down, first she 

1 For the interpretation of this introductory dream, which is to be 
interpreted as a causal dependent clause, see p. 315. [Cf. also pp. 319 
and 325.] 

- Describing the course of her life. 

“ Her high descent: a wishful antithesis to the introductory dream. 

* A composite picture uniting two localities: what were known as the 
‘attics’ of her family home, where she used to play with her brother, the 
object of her later phantasies, and a farm belonging to a bad imcle who 
used to tease her. 

® A wishful antithesis to a real recollection of her tmcle’s farm, where 
she used to throw off her clothes in her sleep. 

“ Just as the angel carries a sprig of lilies in pictures of the Annuncia- 

’ For the explanation of this composite image see p. 319: innocence, 
menstruation. La dame aux canUlias. 



had ONE, then suddenly two, and later again one,^ When she got 
down, the lower blossoms were already a good deal faded. Then she 
saw, after she had got down, a manservant who — she felt inclined to 
say — was combing a similar tree, that is to say he was using a piece 
OF WOOD to drag out some thick tufts of hair that were hanging 
down from it like moss. Some other workmen had cut down similar 
BRANCHES from a GARDEN and thrown them into the road, where they 

whether that was all right — whether she might take one too.® A 
young MAN (someone she knew, a stranger) was standing in the 
garden; she went up to him to ask how branches of that kind could 
be TRANSPLANTED INTO HER oiw GARDEN.® He embraced her; 
whereupon she struggled and asked him what he was thinking of and 
whether he thought people could embrace her like that. He said there was 
no harm in that: it was allowed.* He then said he was willing to go into 
the OTHER GARDEN with her, to show her how the planting was done, 
and added something she could not quite understand: ^Anyhow, I need 
three yards (later she gave it as: three square yards) or three fathoms 
of ground.' It was as though he were asking her for something in return 
for his willingness, as though he intended to compensate himself 
IN HER GARDEN, OT as though he wanted to cheat some law or other, 
to get some advantage from it without causing her harm. Whether he 
really showed her something, she had no idea. 

This dream, which I have brought forward on account of 
its symbolic elements, may be described as a ‘biographical’ one. 
Dreams of this kind occur frequently during psycho-analysis, but 
perhaps only rarely outside it.® 

* Referring to the multiplicity of the people involved in her phantasy. 

* That is whether she might pull one down, i.e. masturbate. [‘JwA 
einen herunterreissen' or ‘ausreissen’ (literally, ‘to pull one down’ or ‘out’) 
are vulgar German terms equivalent to the English ‘to toss oneself off’. 
Freud had already drawn attention to this symbolism at the end of his 
paper on ‘Screen Memories’ (1899fl); see also below, p. 388 f.] 

® The branch had long since come to stand for the male genital 
organ; incidentally it also made a plain allusion to her family name. 

^ This, as well as what next follows, related to marriage precautions. 

® [This paragraph was added in 1925 . — Footnote added (to the preceding 
paragraph) 1911:] A similar ‘biographical’ dream will be found below 
as the third of my examples of dream-symbolism [p. 364]. Another one 
has been recorded at length by Rank [1910], and another, which must 
be read ‘in reverse’, by Stekel (1909, 486). — [A reference to ‘biographi- 
cal’ dreams will be found near the end of Freud’s ‘History of the Psycho- 
Analytic Movement’ (1914d).] 


I naturally have at my disposal^ a superfluity of material of 
this kind, but to report it would involve us too deeply in a 
consideration of neurotic conditions. It all leads to the same 
conclusion, namely that there is no necessity to assume that any 
peculiar symbolizing activity of the mind is operating in the 
dream-work, but that dreams make use of any symbolizations 
which are already present in unconscious thinking, because they 
fit in better with the requirements of dream-construction on 
account of their representability and also because as a rule they 
escape censorship. 

^ [In the first three editions, 1900, 1909 and 1911, this paragraph was 
preceded by another, which was omitted from 1914 onwards. The 
deleted paragraph ran as follows: T must mention another circle of 
ideas which often serves as a disguise for sexual material both in dreams 
and in neuroses: namely ideas connected with changing house. “Chang- 
ing house” may easily be replaced by the word “Ausziehen” [meaning 
both “moving house” and “undressing”], and is thus connected with 
the subject of “clothing”. If there is also a lift or elevator in the dream, 
we shall be reminded of the English word “to lift”, that is, “to lift one’s 



The analysis of this last, biographical, dream is clear evidence 
that I recognized the presence of symbolism in dreams from the 
very beginning. But it was only by degrees and as my experience 
increased that I arrived at a full appreciation of its extent and 
significance, and I did so under the influence of the contribu- 
tions of Wilhelm Stekel (1911), about whom a few words will 
not be out of place here. [1925.] 

That writer, who has perhaps damaged psycho-analysis as 
much as he has benefited it, brought forward a large number 
of unsuspected translations of symbols; to begin with they were 
met with scepticism, but later they were for the most part con- 
firmed and had to be accepted. I shall not be belittling the 
value of Stekel’s services if I add that the sceptical reserve with 
which his proposals were received was not without justification. 
For the examples by which he supported his interpretations 
were often unconvincing, and he made use of a method which 
must be rejected as scientifically untrustworthy. Stekel arrived 
at his interpretations of symbols by way of intuition, thanks to 
a peculiar gift for the direct understanding of them. But the 
existence of such a gift cannot be counted upon generally, its 
effectiveness is exempt from all criticism and consequently its 
findings have no claim to credibility. It is as though one sought 

1 [With the exception of two paragraphs (on p. 393 f.) none of 
Section E of this chapter appeared in the first edition of the book. As 
explained in the Editor’s Introduction (p. xiii), much of the material 
was added in the 1909 and 1911 editions, but in them it was included in 
Chapter V under the heading of ‘Typical Dreams’ (Section D of that 
chapter). In the edition of 1914 the present section was first constituted, 
partly from the material previously added to Chapter V and partly 
from further new material. Still more material was added in subsequent 
editions. In view of these complications, in this section a date has been 
added in square brackets at the end of each paragraph. It will be under- 
stood from what has been said that material dated 1909 and 1911 
originally appeared in Chapter V and was transferred to its present 
position in 1914.] 



to base the diagnosis of infectious diseases upon olfactory im- 
pressions received at the patient’s bedside — though there have 
undoubtedly been clinicians who could accomplish more than 
other people by means of the sense of smell (which is usually 
atrophied) and were really able to diagnose a case of enteric 
fever by smell. [1925.] 

Advances in psycho-analytic experience have brought to our 
notice patients who have shown a direct understanding of 
dream-symbolism of this kind to a surprising extent. They were 
often sufferers from dementia praecox, so that for a time there 
was an inclination to suspect every dreamer who had this grasp 
of symbols of being a victim of that disease. ^ But such is not the 
case. It is a question of a personal gift or peculiarity which has 
no visible pathological significance. [1925.] 

When we have become familiar with the abundant use made 
of symbolism for representing sexual material in dreams, the 
question is bound to arise of whether many of these symbols do 
not occur with a permanently fixed meaning, like the ‘gramma- 
logues’ in shorthand; and we shall feel tempted to draw up a 
new ‘dream-book’ on the decoding principle [see p. 97 f.]. On 
that point there is this to be said: this symbolism is not peculiar 
to dreams, but is characteristic of unconscious ideation, in par- 
ticular among the people, and it is to be found in folklore, and 
in popular myths, legends, linguistic idioms, proverbial wisdom 
and current jokes, to a more complete extent than in dreams. 

It would therefore carry us far beyond the sphere of dream- 
interpretation if we were to do justice to the significance of 
symbols and discuss the numerous, and to a large extent still 
unsolved, problems attaching to the concept of a symbol.® We 
must restrict ourselves here to remarking that representation by 
a symbol is among the indirect methods of representation, but 
that till kinds of indications warn us against lumping it in with 
other forms of indirect representation without being able to 

® [Freud remarks elsewhere (1913fl) that, just as the presence of 
dementia praecox facilitates the interpretation of symbols, so an 
obsessional neurosis makes it more difficult.] 

® {Footnote 1911:] Cf. the works of Bleuler [1910] and of his Zurich 
pupils, Maeder [1908], Abraham [1909], etc., on symbolism, and the 
non-medical writers to whom they refer (Kleinpaul, etc.). {Added 1914:] 
What is most to the point on this subject will be foimd in Rank and 
Sachs (1913, Chapter I). {Added 1925:] See further Jones (1916). 



form any clear conceptual picture of their distinguishing 
features. In a number of cases the element in common between 
a symbol and what it represents is obvious; in others it is con- 
cealed and the choice of the symbol seems puzzling. It is pre- 
cisely these latter cases which must be able to throw light upon 
the ultimate meaning of the symbolic relation, and they indicate 
that it is of a genetic character. Things that are symbolically 
connected to-day were probably united in prehistoric times 
by conceptual and linguistic identity.^ The symbolic relation 
seems to be a relic and a mark of former identity. In this con- 
nection we may observe how in a number of cases the use of a 
common symbol extends further than the use of a common 
language, as was already pointed out by Schubert (1814).® A 
number of symbols are as old as language itself, while others 
(e.g. ‘airship’, ‘Zeppelin’) are being coined continuously down 
to the present time. [1914.] 

Dreams make use of this symbolism for the disguised repre- 
sentation of their latent thoughts. Incidentally, many of the 
symbols are habitually or almost habitually employed to 
express the same thing. Nevertheless, the peculiar plasticity of 
the psychical material [in dreams] must never be forgotten. 
Often enough a symbol has to be interpreted in its proper mean- 
ing and not symbolically; while on other occasions a dreamer 
may derive from his private memories the power to employ as 
sexual symbols all kinds of things which are not ordinarily 
employed as such.® If a dreamer has a choice open to him 
between a number of symbols, he will decide in favour of the 

\Fooinote added 1925:] This view would be powerfully supported by 
a theory put forward by Dr. Hans Sperber (1912). He is of the opinion 
that all primal words referred to sexual things but afterwards lost their 
sexual meaning through being applied to other things and activities 
which were compared with the sexual ones. 

® [This last clause was added in 1919 . — Footnote 1914:] For instance, 
according to Ferenczi [see Rank, 1912a, 100], a ship moving on the 
water occurs in dreams of micturition in Hungarian dreamers, though 
the term ‘schiffen’ [‘to ship’; cf. vulgar English ‘to pumpship’] is unknown 
in that language. (See also p. 367 f. below.) In dreams of speakers of 
French and other Romance languages a room is used to symbolize a 
woman, though these languages have nothing akin to the German 
expression ‘Frauenzimmer’. [See p. 214 a.] 

® [In the editions of 1909 and 1911 only, the following sentence 
appeared at this point: ‘Moreover the ordinarily used sexual symbols 
are not invariably unambiguous.’] 


one which is connected in its subject-matter with the rest of the 
material of his thoughts — which, that is to say, has individual 
grounds for its acceptance in addition to the typical ones. 
[1909; last sentence 1914.] 

Though the later investigations since the time of Schemer 
have made it impossible to dispute the existence of dream- 
symbolism — even Havelock Ellis [1911, 109] admits that there 
can be no doubt that our dreams are full of symbolism — yet it 
must be confessed that the presence of symbols in dreams not 
only facilitates their interpretation but also makes it more diffi- 
cult. As a rule the technique of interpreting according to the 
dreamer’s free associations leaves us in the lurch when we come 
to the symbolic elements in the dream-content. Regard for 
scientific criticism forbids our returning to the arbitrary judge- 
ment of the dream-interpreter, as it was employed in ancient 
times and seems to have been revived in the reckless inter- 
pretations of Stekel. We are thus obliged, in dealing with those 
elements of the dream-content which must be recognized as 
symbolic, to adopt a combined technique, which on the one 
hand rests on the dreamer’s associations and on the other hand 
fills the gaps from the interpreter’s knowledge of symbols. We 
must combine a critical caution in resolving symbols with a 
careful study of them in dreams which afford particularly clear 
instances of their use, in order to disarm any charge of arbitrari- 
ness in dream-interpretation. The uncertainties which still 
attach to our activities as interpreters of dreams spring in part 
from our incomplete knowledge, which can be progressively 
improved as we advance further, but in part from certain char- 
acteristics of dream-symbols themselves. They frequently have 
more than one or even several meanings, and, as with Chinese 
script, the correct interpretation can only be arrived at on each 
occasion from the context. This ambiguity of the symbols links 
up with the characteristic of dreams for admitting of ‘over- 
interpretation’ [see p. 279] — for representing in a single piece of 
content thoughts and wishes which are often widely divergent 
in their nature. [1914.] 

Subject to these qualifications and reservations I will now 
proceed. The Emperor and Empress (or the King and Queen) 
as a rule really represent the dreamer’s parents; and a Prince 
or Princess represents the dreamer himself or herself. [1909.] 

I.D. V B B 



But the same high authority is attributed to great men as to the 
Emperor; and for that reason Goethe, for instance, appears as 
a father-symbol in some dreams (Hitschmann, 1913). [1919.] 
— All elongated objects, such as sticks, tree-trunks and um- 
brellas (the opening of these last being comparable to an 
erection) may stand for the male organ [1909] — as well as all 
long, sharp weapons, such as knives, daggers and pikes [1911]. 
Another frequent though not entirely intelligible symbol of the 
same thing is a nail-file — possibly on account of the rubbing up 
and down. [1909.] — Boxes, cases, chests, cupboards and ovens 
represent the uterus [1909], and also hollow objects, ships, and 
vessels of all kinds [1919]. — Rooms in dreams are usually 
women {‘Frauenzimmer’, [see p. 214 w.]); if the various ways in 
and out of them are represented, this interpretation is scarcely 
open to doubt. [1909.]^ In this connection interest in whether 
the room is open or locked is easily intelligible. (Cf. Dora’s first 
dream in my ‘Fragment of an Analysis of a Case of Hysteria’, 
1905« [Footnote near the beginning of Section II].) There is no 
need to name explicitly the key that unlocks the room; in his 
ballad of Count Eberstein, Uhland has used the symbolism of 
locks and keys to construct a charming piece of bawdry. [1911.] 
— A dream of going through a suite of rooms is a brothel or 
harem dream. [1909.] But, as Sachs [1914] has shown by some 
neat examples, it can also be used (by antithesis) to represent 
marriage. [1914.] — We find an interesting link with the sexual 
researches of childhood when a dreamer dreams of two rooms 
which were originally one, or when he sees a familiar room 
divided into two in the dream, or vice versa. In childhood the 
female genitals and the anus are regarded as a single area — the 

1 [Footrwle added 1919:] ‘One of my patients, who was living in a 
boarding-house, dreamt that he met one of the maidservants and asked her 
what her number was. To his surprise she answered-. “14”. He had in fact 
started a liaison with this girl and had paid several visits to her in her 
bedroom. She had not unnaturally been afraid that the landlady might 
become suspicious, and, on the day before the dream, she had proposed 
that they should meet in an unoccupied room. This room was actually 
“No. 14”, while in the dream it was the woman herself who bore this 
number. It would hardly be possible to imagine clearer proof of an 
identification between a woman and a room.’ (Jones, 1914a.) Cf. Arte- 
midorus, Otieirocritica, Book II, Chapter X: ‘Thus, for instance, a bed- 
chamber stands for a wife, if such there be in the house.’ (Trans. F. S. 
Krauss, 1881, 110.) 


‘bottom’ (in accordance with the infantile ‘cloaca theory’)^; and 
it is not until later that the discovery is made that this region of 
the body comprises two separate cavities and orifices. [1919.] 
— Steps, ladders or staircases, or, as the case may be, walking 
up or down them, are representations of the sexual act.* — 
Smooth walls over which the dreamer climbs, the fagades of 
houses, down which he lowers himself — often in great anxiety 
— correspond to erect human bodies, and are probably repeat- 
ing in the dream recollections of a baby’s climbing up his 
parents or nurse. The ‘smooth’ walls are men; in his fear the 
dreamer often clutches hold of ‘projections’ in the fagades of 
houses. [1911.] — Tables, tables laid for a meal, and boards also 
stand for women — no doubt by antithesis, since the contours of 
their bodies are eliminated in the symbols. [1909.] ‘Wood’ 
seems, from its linguistic connections, to stand in general for 
female ‘material’. The name of the Island of ‘Madeira’ means 
‘wood’ in Portuguese. [1911.] Since ‘bed and board’ constitute 
marriage, the latter often takes the place of the former in 
dreams and the sexual complex of ideas is, so far as may be, 
transposed on to the eating complex. [1909.] — As regards 
articles of clothing, a woman’s hat can very often be inter- 
preted with certainty as a genital organ, and, moreover, as a 

1 [See the section on ‘Theories of Birth’ in the second of Freud’s Three 
Essays on the Theory of Sexuality (1905i).] 

* [Footnote 1911:] I will repeat here what I have written on this sub- 
ject elsewhere (Freud, 1910<f) : ‘A little time ago I heard that a psycholo- 
gist whose views are somewhat different from ours had remarked to one 
of us that, when all was said and done, we did undoubtedly exaggerate 
the hidden sexual significance of dreams; his own commonest dream was 
of going upstairs, and surely there could not be anything sexual in that. 
We were put on the alert by this objection, and began to turn our atten- 
tion to the appearance of steps, staircases and ladders in dreams, and 
were soon in a position to show that staircases (and analogous things) 
were unquestionably symbols of copulation. It is not hard to discover 
the basis of the comparison: we come to the top in a series of rhythmical 
movements and with increasing breathlessness and then, with a few 
rapid leaps, we can get to the bottom again. Thus the rhythmical pat- 
tern of copulation is reproduced in going upstairs. Nor must we omit to 
bring in the evidence of linguistic usage. It shows us that “mounting” 
[German “steigeti”'[ is used as a direct equivalent for the sexual act. We 
speak ofa man as a “Steiger” [a “mounter”] and of “nachsteigen” [“to run 
after”, literally “to climb after”]. In French the steps on a staircase are 
called “marches” and “un viewe marchewr” has the same meaning as our 
“em alter Steiger” [“an old rake”].’ [Gf. also p. 285 ff.] 



marCs. The same is true of an overcoat [German ^ManteV], 
though in this case it is not clear to what extent the use of the 
symbol is due to a verbal assonance. In men’s dreams a neck-tie 
often appears as a symbol for the penis. No doubt this is not only 
because neck-ties are long, dependent objects and peculiar to 
men, but also because they can be chosen according to taste — 
a liberty which, in the case of the object symbolized, is forbidden 
by Nature.^ Men who make use of this symbol in dreams are 
often very extravagant in ties in real life and own whole 
collections of them. [1911.] — It is highly probable that all 
complicated machinery and apparatus occurring in dreams 
stand for the genitals (and as a rule male ones [1919]) — in 
describing which dream-symbolism is as indefatigable as the 
‘joke-work’.* [1909.] Nor is there any doubt that all weapons 
and tools are used as symbols for the male organ; e.g. ploughs, 
hammers, rifles, revolvers, daggers, sabres, etc. [1919.] — In the 
same way many landscapes in dreams, especially any containing 
bridges or wooded hills, may clearly be recognized as descrip- 
tions of the genitals. [1911.] Marcinowski [1912a] has published 
a collection of dreams illustrated by their dreamers with draw- 
ings that ostensibly represent landscapes and other localities 
occurring in the dreams. These drawings bring out very clearly 
the distinction between a dream’s manifest and latent meaning. 
Whereas to the innocent eye they appear as plans, maps, and 
so on, closer inspection shows that they represent the .human 
body, the genitals, etc., and only then do the dreams become 
intelligible. (See in this connection Pfister’s papers [191 1-12 and 
1913] on cryptograms and puzzle-pictures.) [1914.] In the case 
of unintelligible neologisms, too, it is worth considering whether 
they may not be put together from components with a sexual 

1 [Footnote added 1914:] Compare the drawing made by a nineteen- 
year-old manic patient reproduced in Z^l. P^choanal., 2, 675. [Rohr- 
schach, 1912.] It represents a man with a neck-tie consisting of a snake 
which is turning in the direction of a girl. See also the story of ‘The 
Bashful Man’ in Anthropophyteia, 6, 334: A lady went into a bathroom, 
and there she came upon a gentleman who scarcely had time to put on 
his shirt. He was very much embarrassed, but hurriedly covering his 
throat with the front part of his shirt, he exclaimed: ‘Excuse me, but I’ve 
not got my necktie on.’ 

* [See Freud’s volume on jokes (1905c), in which he introduced the 
term ‘joke-work’ (on the analogy of ‘dream-work’) to designate the 
psychological processes involved in the production of jokes.] 


meaning. [1911.] — Children in dreams often stand for the 
genitals; and, indeed, both men and women are in the habit of 
referring to their genitals affectionately as their ‘little ones’. 
[1909.] Stekel [1909, 473] is right in recognizing a ‘little 
brother’ as the penis. [1925.] Playing with a little child, beating 
it, etc., often represent masturbation in dreams. [1911.] — To 
represent castration symbolically, the dream-work makes use of 
baldness, hair-cutting, falling out of teeth and decapitation. If 
one of the ordinary symbols for a penis occurs in a dream 
doubled or multiplied, it is to be regarded as a warding-off 
of Ccistration.^ The appearance in dreams of lizards — animals 
whose tails grow again if they are pulled off — has the same 
significance. (Cf. the lizard-dream on p. 11 f.) — Many of the 
beasts which are used as genital symbols in mythology and folk- 
lore play the same part in dreams; e.g. fishes, snails, cats, mice 
(on account of the pubic hair), and above all those most im- 
portant symbols of the male organ — snakes. Small animals 
and vermin represent small children — for instance, undesired 
brothers and sisters. Being plagued with vermin is often a sign 
of pregnancy. [1919.] — A quite recent symbol of the male organ 
in dreams deserves mention: the air-ship, whose use in this sense 
is justified by its connection with flying as well as sometimes by 
its shape. [1911.] 

A number of other symbols have been put forward, with 
supporting instances, by Stekel, but have not yet been suffi- 
ciently verified. [1911.] Stekel’s writings, and in particular his 
Die Sprache des Traumes (1911), contain the fullest collection of 
interpretations of symbols. Many of these show penetration, and 
further examination has proved them correct: for instance, his 
section on the symbolism of death. But this author’s lack of a 
critical faculty and his tendency to generalization at all costs 
throw doubts upon others of his interpretations or render them 
unusable; so that it is highly advisable to exercise caution in 
accepting his conclusions. I therefore content myself with draw- 
ing attention to only a few of his findings. [1914.] 

According to Stekel, ‘right’ and ‘left’ in dreams have an 
ethical sense. ‘The right-hand path always means the path of 
righteousness and the left-hand one that of crime. Thus “left” 

^ [This point is elaborated in Section II of Freud’s paper on ‘The 
Uncanny’ (1919A). See also Freud’s posthumously published paper 
(written in 1922) on Medusa’s head (1940c), and below, p. 412.] 



may repre.sent homosexuality, incest or perversion, and “right” 
may represent marriage, intercourse with a prostitute and so 
on, always looked at from the subject’s individual moral stand- 
point.’ (Stekel, 1909, 466 ff.) — Relatives in dreams usually play 
the part of genitals (ibid., 473). I can only confirm this in the 
case of sons, daughters and younger sisters’ — that is only so far 
as they fall into the category of ‘litde ones’. On the other hand 
I have come across undoubted cases in which ‘sisters’ symbol- 
ized the breasts and ‘brothers’ the larger hemispheres. — Stekel 
explains failing to catch up with a carriage as regret at a differ- 
ence in age which cannot be caught up with (ibid., 479). — 
Luggage that one travels with is a load of sin, he says, that 
weighs one down (loc. cit.). [1911.] But precisely luggage often 
turns out to be an unmistakable symbol of the dreamer’s own 
genitals. [1914.] — Stekel also assigns fixed symbolic meanings 
to numbers, such as often appear in dreams [ibid. 497 ff.]. But 
these explanations seem neither sufficiently verified nor gener- 
ally valid, though his interpretations usually appear plausible 
in the individual eases. [1911.]^ In any case the number three 
has been confirmed from many sides as a symbol of the male 
genitals. [1914.]® 

One of the generalizations put forward by Stekel concerns the 
double significance of genital symbols. [1914.] ‘Where’, he asks, 
‘is there a symbol which — provided that the imagination by any 
means admits of it — cannot be employed both in a male and in 
a female sense?’ [1911, 73.] In any case the clause in parenthesis 
removes much of the certainty from this assertion, since in fact 
the imagination does not always admit of it. But I think it is 
worth while remarking that in my experience Stekel’s general- 
ization cannot be maintained in the face of the greater com- 
plexity of the facts. In addition to symbols which can stand with 
equal frequency for the male and for the female genitals, there 
are some which designate one of the sexes predominantly or 
almost exclusively, and yet others which are known only with 

^ [And, apparently, younger brothers, see above, p. 357.] 

® [At this point, in the 1911 edition only, the following sentence 
appeared: ‘In Wilhelm Stekel’s recently published volume. Die Sprache 
des Traumes, which appeared too late for me to notice it, there is to be 
found (1911, 72 f.) a list of the commonest sexual symbols which is 
intended to show that all sexual symbols can be employed bisexually.’] 

“ [A discussion of the number nine will be found in Section 3 of Freud 


a male or a female meaning. For it is a fact that the imagination 
does not admit of long, stiff objects and weapons being used as 
symbols of the female genitals, or of hollow objects, such as 
chests, cases, boxes, etc., being used as symbols for the male 
ones. It is true that the tendency of dreams and of unconscious 
phantasies to employ sexual symbols bisexually betrays an 
archaic characteristic; for in childhood the distinction between 
the genitals of the two sexes is unknown and the same kind of 
genitals are attributed to both of them. [1911.] But it is possible, 
too, to be misled into wrongly supposing that a sexual symbol is 
bisexual, if one forgets that in some dreams there is a general 
inversion of sex, so that what is male is represented as female 
and vice versa. Dreams of this kind may, for instance, express a 
woman’s wish to be a man. [1925.] 

The genitals can also be represented in dreams by other parts 
of the body: the male organ by